LACATON Anne, VASSAL Jean-Philippe Place Léon Aucoc (1996)

This project fits within the framework of an “embellishment” plan for many town squares instigated by Bordeaux City Council in 1996. The square is triangular in shape, bordered by trees, with benches and a space for playing pétanque, like a village square.
Around it, the houses with their sober but well-designed facades form an excellent example of estate architecture and of collective public housing.
On our first visit we get the feeling that this square is already beautiful because of it’s authentic, lacking in sophistication. it possesses the beauty of what is obvious, necessary, right. Its meaning emerges directly. People seems at home here in an atmosphere of harmony and tranquillity formed over many years.
We’ve spent some time watching what happened there. We’ve conversed with a few of the local inhabitants.
Then we asked ourselves about a development project on this square with a view to its embellishment.
What does the idea of “embellishment” boil down to ?
Does it involve replacing one groundcover with another ? A wooden bench with a more-up-to-date design in stone ? Or a lamp standard with another, more fashionable, one ? Nothing calls for too great a set of changes.
Embellishment has no place here.
Quality, charm, life exist. The square is already beautiful.
As a project we’ve proposed doing nothing apart from some simple and rapid maintenance works – replacing the gravel, cleaning the square more often, treating the lime trees, slightly modifying the traffic- of a kind to improve use of the square and to satisfy the locals.

Anne Lacaton & Jean-Philippe Vassal, architects