With the Venice Architecture Biennale opening soon, L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui decided to have a look at the French architectural scene. In its 412 issue, out on May 13th, AA offers a panorama of contemporary architecture in France via a series of projects selected by 10 critics and editors from international newpapers and magazines such as Oliver Wainwright (The Guardian), Edwin Heathcote (The Financial Times), Sebastian Redecke (Bauwelt) and Miguel Galiano (Arquitectura Viva).
When L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui decided to dedicate this issue to France, two paths arose: to provide an overview of the contemporary scene by selecting 10 iconic projects completed since the years 2000, or to ask foreign journalists, critics and observers to give us their own perception of French architecture. The second vision, opening up areas for consideration that a selection made entirely by a judge and party editorial team may well have omitted, won over.
While the figures (28 projects submitted by 10 contributors) and the method (the proposals and final selection of our contributors are based on highly personal views of what the foundations of French architecture are today) do not aim to construct a statistical analysis, the result of this call for papers has confirmed and sometimes invalidated some of our intuitions. Almost half of the references proposed to AA refer to social housing, attesting to a market reality but above all to a French area of expertise. Hence the presence, in the following pages, of Nemausus, built before the 20th century, but which appears as a reference. For housing projects, Lacaton & Vassal comes out on top of the list, with the Paris Bois-le-Prêtre housing block (2011) quoted by half of the invited writers.
In France and abroad, there is admiration for such a dedication that champions the transformation of existing buildings rather than their destruction, offering a low-cost solution to the dramatic lack of social housing (11.25 million ex. VAT for 12,460 m. as Bois-le-Prêtre is concerned). With the conversion of 530 housing units in Bordeaux, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are consolidating, with their accomplices Frédéric Druot and Christophe Hutin, an approach that resonates distinctly with the resolutely social Venice Architecture Biennale opening soon.