Lacaton & Vassal is the 2023 Soane Medal recipient

“Never demolish, always add”

Lacaton & Vassal is the 2023 Soane Medal recipient

Jean-Philippe Vassal and Anne Lacaton were awarded the 2023 Soane Medal. (Philippe Ruault)

The Pritzker Prize–winning Paris office Lacaton & Vassal is this year’s recipient of the Sir John Soane Medal. The office’s cofounders Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal accepted the prestigious award at the Sir John Soane Museum today in London.

Established in 2017, the Soane Medal is awarded to architects, educators, and critics who have made major contributions to architecture; either through practice, history, theory, or public engagement. Previous winners include Rafael Moneo (2017), Denise Scott Brown (2018), Kenneth Frampton (2019), Marina Tabassum (2021), and Peter Barber (2022).

The Soane Medal is judged annually by distinguished architects, critics, and curators; the selection process is led by David Chipperfield, former Trustee of Sir John Soane’s Museum. This year’s esteemed jurors chose Lacaton & Vassal because of the office’s “honest design approach,” a press statement from the Soane Museum stated.

“Through the resourceful repurposing of materials and existing structures, they transform buildings in a way which prioritises the needs of residents and local communities, while remaining sensitive to environmental concerns. The pursuit of continued architectural improvement underpins their work, demonstrating the importance of architecture in people’s lives. This was central to Sir John Soane’s own mission, who not only used his house as a place of experimentation, but to inspire and educate those who visited on architecture’s role in society,” the Soane Museum continued.

Cit‚ du Grand Parc, Bordeaux, France, (Philippe Ruault)

Founded in 1987, Lacaton & Vassal has built a reputation for their ecologically sensitive, socially conscious architecture; namely their work refurbishing antiquated mass housing in exurban areas outside French cities. “In Paris these past twenty years, there’s been a huge problem where over 200,000 flats have been demolished,” Vassal said in his acceptance speech at the 2023 Soane Medal ceremony. “We know that radical transformation, not demolition, is the solution. Never demolish, always add.”

At the Soane Museum, Lacaton presented the firm’s latest major refurbishment project in Bordeaux, where 530 flats across three 20th-century tower blocks were saved from demolition and transformed into stunning, affordable apartments.

Interior view (Philippe Ruault)

In light of this year’s Soane Medal, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal offered: “What comes after should always be better than what was there before. The buildings that people inhabit – their homes, workplaces and social spaces – should bring pleasure; architecture should be generous and free. We are overjoyed to be awarded this year’s Soane Medal. As Soane furthered the discipline in his own time, we are pleased to join a group of Medallists who demonstrate architecture’s role in each aspect of society today.”