Freedom of Use

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are known for an architecture that privileges inhabitants’ freedom and pleasure through generous, open designs. Speaking directly and emphatically to the audience, the architects opened their 2015 lecture at Harvard University with a manifesto: study and create an inventory of the existing situation; densify without compressing individual space; promote user mobility, access, choice; and most importantly, never demolish.

Freedom of Use presents a fluid narrative of Lacaton and Vassal’s oeuvre, articulated through processes of accumulation, addition, and extension. The architects describe built and unbuilt work, from a house in Niger made of little more than branches; to the expansive Nantes School of Architecture; to a public square in Bordeaux where, after months of study, their design solution was: do nothing.

Lacaton and Vassal’s principle of doubling space is echoed in the book’s treatment of photography: black-and-white exterior shots that run alongside the text form a dialogue with corresponding full-color photographs of each interior, gathered at the end of the book.

Freedom of Use is the second title in the book series The Incidents, based on uncommon events at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Lacaton & Vassal is a Paris-based architecture firm founded in 1987 by Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. The two met at architecture school in Bordeaux, after which Lacaton pursued a degree in urban planning, while Vassal moved to Niger to work as an urban planner. After Vassal returned to France, they formed their practice, which has since grown into an international office with 20 designers. Guided by principles of generosity and economy, Lacaton & Vassal have designed residential, cultural, educational, and commercial buildings, including the Latapie house, Floirac (1993); Café Una, Vienna (2001); the School of Architecture, Nantes (2009); the transformation of Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, Paris (2011); and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012). They both teach internationally, publish widely, and have won numerous awards—including the Grand prix national d’architecture in 2008.

Edited by Jennifer Sigler and Leah Whitman-Salkin.
Designed by Åbäke.

96 pages, softcover, $14.00
ISBN 978-3-956791-73-4

Co-published by Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Sternberg Press.