A major gift from alumni Garry and Susan Rothwell established the Garry and Susan Rothwell Chair in Architectural Design Leadership with a purpose ‘to develop, through architecture and urbanism innovation, the capacity to create environments which improve people’s quality of life’.
I am delighted that through the Rothwell gift and the involvement of Lacaton & Vassal, the School will be able to accelerate our thought leadership in architectural and urban professions.
Renowned for their multiple sustainable housing projects, such as 530 units within three buildings at Grand Parc in Bordeaux, France, French architects, Anne Lacaton & Jean-Philippe Vassal were appointed co-chairs of the inaugural, three-year Rothwell Chair at the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning in 2020 to explore their topic: ‘we propose to deal with contemporary urban conditions of living in the city’.
The Rothwell Chair Symposium 2021 inaugurates the appointment and will explore the topic: Living in the city - exemplary social and affordable housing design.
Symposium speakers will include: Lacaton & Vassal discussing a number of their projects over all three evening sessions; Andreas Hofer, Swiss architect and developer and director for the International Building Exhibition in Stuttgart; Christophe Hutin, architect and curator of the French pavilion at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale; as well as academics such as Professor Nicole Gurran from the Sydney School of Architecture, Design, and Planning who has written extensively on urban planning and housing affordability in Australia.
Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal want to highlight the quality of housing and ensure that it is welcoming and comfortable. They defend the principle of generosity of space as a critical condition for living well in big cities.
The aim of all their housing projects is for "every dwelling to be like a villa". Through winter gardens and balconies that enable inhabitants to conserve energy and access nature during all seasons, they increase the amount of living space exponentially and inexpensively. This is the rule they apply to the creation of new housing as well as to the transformation of all existing buildings. Lacaton & Vassal oppose demolition, which they consider an enormous waste of energy, material and history: "Transformation is the opportunity to do more and better with what already exists."
The Pritzker jury citation echoes The Rothwell Symposium topic: “By prioritising the enrichment of human life through a lens of generosity and freedom of use … this benefits the individual socially, ecologically and economically, aiding the evolution of a city.”
The Rothwell Chair Symposium 2021 is a free, online event and will showcase leading social and affordable housing design by international and Australian architectural firms and researchers, with an emphasis on engaging political, financial and planning contexts.