Schelling Architecture Prize 2006
Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal
“They have succeeded in renewing architecture through an act of creative restraint.”
Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal belong to the important representatives of today’s varied and ambitious French architecture scene and they open new positions within the international architectural debate. With their high level of economic and social responsibility, they are creating atmospherically dense, huamn spaces. The Architecture Centre Vienna had already come across their work at an early time.
Lacaton & Vassal are probably the most radical architects today. Their radicality is not driven by the invention of new forms, but by the constant questioning of the adequacy in the use of material means in order to produce the optimal atmospheres. It is fascinating to observe how they always keep in mind the richest spatial options as the goal, regardless of the kind of design commission, from the simple, cheap single family dwelling to the luxury hotel. In this regard they liberate themselves fundamentally from all traditional images and conceptions and how they constantly attempt to question conventions. At a time such as this, in which architecture is primarily regarded as a produces of spectacular images, this attitude must be understood as being downright provocative, if the renunciation of such images is being propagated as a solution.
In 2000, Lacton & Vassal were invited as the French contributors to the Architecture Biennale in venice. The motto for this was “Less esthetics – more ethics”. Lacaton & Vassal wanted to use the budget for this participation to buy water pumps for Africa and merely to document this process in their exhibition. That was too much for those responsible for the French pavillon, their participation was cancelled.
Their working method is equally radical as their architectural position. Nothing is documented in terms of a drawing: sketches might fixate them or their clients on initial images. Neither do they work with models as these could call for an external view or give rise to sculptural solutions. On the contrary, they are constantly expanding their working methods, searching for new technigques and processes in relation with the respective design commission. Dietmar Steiner
Schelling Architectural Theory Prize 2006
“His analytically incisive and honest assessment of contemporary architecture and urbanism is unique.”
In the international context, Werner Sewing may be considered as the most influential and important German language architectural and urban design critic. in England, in the United States and China, his analyses and theses on architecture and urban design are being met with a high degree of attention, which is conversely a result of his interest in international development. While it is often the case that in Germany the discourse is suffocating as a result of parochial narrowness, Sewing has been able to make larger connections thanks to his knowledge of economy, politics and sociology. However, just because of the arguments on the international level or the interdisciplinary approach, Sewing does not smooth out the spectrum of issues. On the contrary, they serve to meticulously distinguish the influences from different cultural contexts and disciplines.
Werner Sewing’s engagement since the fall of the Berlin Wall cannot be overestimated. Being thoroughly committed to urban existence, his analyses and comments on urban development and architecture of the German capital remeined independent of all participating interest groups. Lobbyists, politicians, planners and architects were never able to find in him a fellow ally who could be instrumentalized. His rhetorical energy is feared. As an architectural and urban theoretician, he is suspicious of any kind of consensus, being formed in his thinking by Niklas Luhmann and much later by Max Weber. He is not so much radical as being committed to independent insight situated between pop and high culture.
If “new urbanism” is imported from the USA as a panacea, Werner Sewing disarms it by means of his profound knowledge of the term as an aesthetically and socially bogus claim and shows it to be in the German context as an attempt at ennobling a reactionary traditionalism. With great appetite for controversy, he analyzes everything behind the images, with which urban design and architecture are able to succeed, thanks to the questionble “iconic turn” – nevertheless paying tribute to the architects for their design competence. In his language-bound engagement, the need for contemporary architectural theory manifest itself in the best possible manner. Ursula Baus
Medallists: Alejandro Aravena, Titus Berhard, Sergison Bates; Uta Hassler, Niklaus Kohler