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Pritzker Prize: It’s best to work with what you’ve got

There’s an important lesson for the third sector to learn from the winners of this year’s Pritzker Prize: you don’t always have to come in with a fresh broom and sweep away what already exists within a community – take time to understand and appreciate what already exists and look to expand and build on what’s already there.

Pritzker Prize - Untitled by Victortsu (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Pritzker Prize – Untitled by Victortsu (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Too often, third sector organisations come in with new ideas, new plans, and a shiny new approach to ‘fixing’ a problem that’s been identified from afar. It’s mostly the wrong approach.

By working with the community you are looking to serve then you can help them to identify what’s already working and build on it from there – see our article from the last couple of weeks on positive deviation.

Through taking the time to understand appreciate and reimagine existing buildings, the architects have managed to create opportunities for communities for a lower price, with less disruption, and successful results. We can all learn from that.

Lacaton and Vassal have taken existing industrial buildings such as the FRAC at Nord pas de Calais and transformed them into a usable exhibition space. They added a ‘ghost’ building next door to mirror the architecture without taking away from what was already there and leaving the emotional power of the existing space to be reused by and for the community.

With existing residential buildings, they used the money earmarked for demolition per flat and used that to expand and extend three flats as they worked through the building extending balconies and adding a second insulating glass skin to provide residents with extra square-footage that can be used all year round.

Whenever we move into a space, a community, or look to work towards our designated charitable impact, we need to make sure that we are working with the communities and not to them or at them. Let’s spend some time examining how we can best build on what they already have before reinventing the wheel.