Lacaton & Vassal

Construire l'échappement une histoire d'air, de vide, de lumière et de liberté, 2019

When he sees, from outside, the tower within which he was imprisoned for seventeen
years, Kaspar Hauser cries out,
“That cannot be!
Wherever I look in the room,
to the right, to the left, frontwards and backwards, there’s only room.
But when I look on the tower, and I turn around, the tower is gone!
So the room is bigger than the tower!”
Werner Herzog, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, 1974.

The transformation produced by an interior space is a complex and fascinating phenomenon.
In each of our projects, we seek to create spaces of expansion, spaces that unfold from the inside to connect directly with the outside, like an unexpected outlet to the sky from the roof of a school, a sudden shift to the open countryside of Bordeaux from the slide of a bay window in a block of housing, or the opening out onto a wide open space after the vertical climb up a facade.

These moments of architecture express suddenness, reversal, an unpredictable escape from an engulfing situation, from the inside. They are possible because architecture enables a process of transformation. This process picks up the resident from the street, isolates her, holds her back, opens up her outlook, and then frees her, as once inside, she discovers an unimaginable contact with the outside. A different outside to the one she thought she knew. Architecture enables incredible outlets to be produced. It enables, from the inside, the transformation of a city: making it bigger, raising it up, making it smaller, amplifying it.

In each of our projects, this shifting phenomenon is different, as is the way of accessing it. Each architectural element—the stairs, the sliding rail, the elevator, the door, but also the ornaments, the things you walk past—is able to transform the viewpoint.

These spaces that open up escape routes produce strong imaginary worlds. They convey liberty. They set down conditions for dreaming. But a dream is not an image; it is the situation of profound disruption between a former state and a present state, between a earlier space and a later space.

This approach, which develops the project in a succession of closely connected spatial sequences—continuous and discontinuous, horizontal and vertical, light and dark, near and far—is related to the fragmentary approach, where the fragment is a way of considering the project and working closely with it. It is a way of avoiding the trap that the work can represent, the trap of entirety and of genericness, by refusing to allow movement to be fixed, in a categorical denial of composition.

By developing this mode of thinking and doing, our work has established affinities with cinema, and, more specifically, with the construction of a film. Unlike architecture, which traditionally designs a project as a whole before developing details that depend on shared coherence, the filmmaker, even if she can picture the whole, nevertheless progresses by dealing with fragments, shots filmed progressively that are juxtaposed, cut, assembled, set against one another, and edited. The film space is therefore composed of assembled fragments connected by action, sound, and the narrative thread. This is our approach when we design projects; like filmmakers we gradually, and with absolute precision, build up our visions.
In this way, the architectural project is a camera.
A very particular camera.
A camera that we can enter into and leave, into which we can penetrate.
A camera that produces a metamorphosis.

For this exhibition, we wanted to single out the sequences from ten or so of our projects that express this shift, in the form of film-like fragments in a lived and traversed space.
We wanted to identify that disturbing phenomenon of a shot change, through architecture.
Through film, we wanted to express this increase in imagination. Through words, we wanted to reveal what covers over these phenomena of opening, of a gulf or escape, both intense and liberating, from the spanning of an architectural project, from the city, outwards.

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