Simple Luxe

Sep 29 - 2019

Grand Parc: Cheap is more

Employing their trademark luxury in simplicity, or cheap-is-more, Lacaton & Vassal have revived an unloved block in Bordeaux by changing its face and restoring interiors: a fast, low budget scheme with no displacement and minimal waste or environmental impact.

Original facades have been replaced with a new layer of winter garden providing an impressive public front, more internal space, improved energy efficiency and glorious views across the city from each apartment. In total 530 flats were refurbished in 12 to 16 days, at around €50,000 per unit, roughly half as much as a new-build scheme.

Compare and contrast with the typical approach in London where unfashionable blocks on large areas of green space are seen not as homes to be improved, but opportunities for private profit. Elephant and Castle is a case in point with the Heygate and Aylesbury estates razed, communities split and residents ‘relocated’ for dense blocks with minimum so-called affordable rents.

Travelling in Europe I am struck by the difference in attitude to building and managing urban communities. In France and Spain there is a positive commitment to making the city liveable, with open spaces, modern markets, small scale industry, trams and cycleways fully integrated with commerce and civic activity. In the UK profit rules, with no widely-heard public debate on the value or relevance of the developer-led built environment, and little room for the kind of clear design-thinking exhibited at Grand Parc.

UK, could do better, 



Grand Parc before, after, winter gardens

Aylesbury Estate SE17 demolition



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Grand Parc before Grand Parc after Grand Parc winter gardens Heygate SE17