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Paris Tower Retrofit Takes Global Award

Monday, April 22, 2013

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The renovation of a decrepit 1960s tower block in Paris has captured the top architectural honor at the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year Awards.

Design of the Year Awards
Photos: Frédéric Druot / Druot, Lacaton and Vassal

Once known as "Alcatraz," the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre building in Paris beat out Zaha Hadid's Galaxy Soho Building and others for the honor.

Designed by Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, the renovation of the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre building beat out 16 other nominations for architecture design in the global contest, including architect Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho Building in Beijing and Renzo Piano’s The Shard in London.

The award program and exhibition celebrates “the best of international design” from the past 12 months, according to the museum.

The overall winner of the competition was the redesigned UK government website GOV.UK, the Design Museum announced Wednesday (April 16).

‘Alcatraz’ Apartments

Tour Bois-le-Prêtre is a 16-story apartment block in northern Paris originally designed in 1962 by French architect Raymond Lopez.

London Design Museum

The architects extended floor plates outward to increase the size of rooms and create new balconies.

However, decades of neglect took their toll on the building, earning it the nickname “Alcatraz,” according to a member of the Design Museum’s jury.

A reimaging and modernization plan was implemented to bring the building back to life. Druot, Lacaton and Vassal extended floor plates outward to increase the size of rooms and create new balconies, according to project details.

Further, a façade of corrugated aluminum now clads the exterior. Large windows and glazed balconies are also included in the redesign. A photo gallery of the project is available here.

Tour Bois-le-Prêtre

"This is an exemplary lesson in harnessing clever thinking and ingenuity to transform neglected parts of our cities," said one jury member.  Glazed balconies were added as part of the renovation.

“Completed at half the cost of demolition and new build, this is an exemplary lesson in harnessing clever thinking and ingenuity to transform neglected parts of our cities—for me that is what good design is all about,” said Amanda Levete, a London Design Museum jury member.

Other Category Winners

The Tour Bois-le-Prêtre building was one of seven category winners in the awards. Other winners include the world’s first foldable wheel, which can be applied to bicycles and wheelchairs, and a chair constructed using the latest computer technology.

The other winners are:

  • Digital: GOV.UK website: Designed by Government Digital Service;
  • Fashion: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland;
  • Furniture: Medici Chair: Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi;
  • Graphics: Venice Architecture Biennale Identity: Designed by John Morgan Studio;
  • Products: Kit Yamoyo: Designed by ColaLife and PI Global; and
  • Transport: Morph Folding Wheel: Designed by Vitamins for Maddak Inc.

The winning entries, along with all the shortlisted designs, are on display at the Design Museum until July 7.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Awards and honors; Building envelope; Cladding; Competitions; Design

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