Lessons from French architects Lacaton & Vassal

3 August 2023
The power of transformation
For the past three years, pioneering French architects Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal have held the inaugural Rothwell Chair. This week they completed their tenure with a series of design studios, seminars and a public talk that exemplified their engagement and not only left a positive impact on the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, but reinvigorated how we view our city.

“This week, we celebrate three years of engagement with Lacaton and Vassal,” said Professor Robyn Dowling, Head of School and Dean.

“This has not only had an enormous impact on our students and their knowledge of designing for contemporary urban conditions, but also created the opportunity to engage more broadly with our city through leading local industry, architects, researchers, and government around the crucial topic of good housing for all: an essential dimension for living well in the city.”

Committed educators and Pritzker Prize-winning architects Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal worked with students, researchers and practitioners over three years, exploring urban conditions and how to use architecture to create environments that improve people’s quality of life.

Living well in the big city is the most important challenge of our time and our generation.
Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal, Rothwell Program Co-Chairs

“This issue involves many crucial topics and challenges, such as climate change, sustainability, energy savings, cost of the land, densification, affordability, integration, social equality and, simply, quality of life. Any strategy for making the city starts from the concept of quality of housing for all.”

For their final year as Rothwell Co-Chairs, the award-winning architects presented their ideas on how to safeguard some of Sydney’s public housing for the next 50 years without demolishing it.

“Never demolish. Always transform, with and for the inhabitant,” said Jean Philippe Vassal.

It is this ethos and vision that has enriched the experience of and provided a rare opportunity for students at the School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

Design leadership of this calibre, in this country, is incredibly difficult to resource, and the School feels extremely fortunate to have worked with exemplary leaders in the field.
Professor Robyn Dowling, Dean of the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning

“The output of the program has been substantial, from symposia, to sold out public lectures, studios, an exhibition, immersive student programs in France, and critical research outputs, we can’t be prouder of the work that has been achieved from this initiative.

“Susan and Garry Rothwell’s generosity has enabled internationally renowned architects such as Lacaton and Vassal to make an invaluable and sustained contribution to our School’s education and research program.”

The Rothwell Chair initiative aims to: provide leadership in architectural and urban design innovation; foster research and research training; enhance the learning experience; and facilitate connections with the architectural profession, both locally and internationally.

“Shortly, we will be announcing the next Rothwell Chair in Architectural Design Leadership to take effect from 2024, which promises to be an equally exciting and dynamic appointment,” said Professor Dowling.


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