The three architects, originating from Olot, in the Catalonian region of Spain, have worked together collaboratively since founding their firm RCR Arquitectes, in their hometown in 1988. Their work demonstrates an unyielding commitment to place and its narrative, to create spaces that are in discourse with their respective contexts. Harmonizing materiality with transparency, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta seek connections between the exterior and interior, resulting in emotional and experiential architecture.
Mr. Pritzker remarks: “The jury has selected three architects who have been working collaboratively for nearly three decades. Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area . Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity .”
Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta represent the first time that three architects together are honored with the prize . Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award. As the winners of the 39th edition of the Prize, it is the second time that laureates hail from Spain, following Rafael Moneo who received the award in 1996. In response to being named the 2017 Laureates of the Pritzker Prize, Ms . Pigem states: “It is a great joy and a great responsibility. We are thrilled that this year three professionals, who work closely together in everything we do, are recognized .”
The locally-based architects evoke universal identity through their creative and extensive use of modern materials including recycled steel and plastic. “They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building,” says Glenn Murcutt, Jury Chair. “The collaboration of these three architects produces uncompromising architecture of a poetic level, representing timeless work that reflects great respect for the past, while projecting clarity that is of the present and the future .” As such, an early 20th century foundry has become their office, Barberí Laboratory (2007), and many remnants of the original building have remained, blended with highly contrasting, new elements, which were added only where essential.
Notable projects include La Cuisine Art Center (Nègrepelisse, France, 2014), Soulages Museum in collaboration with G . Trégouët (Rodez, France, 2014), La Lira Theater Public Open Space in collaboration with J . Puigcorbé (Ripoll, Girona, Spain, 2011), Les Cols restaurant marquee (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2011), El Petit Comte Kindergarten in collaboration with J . Puigcorbé (Besalú, Girona, Spain, 2010), Bell-Lloc Winery (Palamós, Girona, Spain, 2007), Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizen’s Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens (Barcelona, Spain, 2007), and Tossol-Basil Athletics Track (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2000).
The 2017 Pritzker Prize Jury Citation states, in part: “we live in a globalized world where we must rely on international influences, trade, discussion, transactions, etc. But more and more people fear that because of this international influence…we will lose our local values, our local art, and our local customs…Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta tell us that it may be possible to have both. They help us to see, in a most beautiful and poetic way, that the answer to the question is not ‘either/or’ and that we can, at least in architecture, aspire to have both; our roots firmly in place and our arms outstretched to the rest of the world .”
In 2013 Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr . Vilalta founded RCR BUNKA Foundation to support architecture, landscape, arts and culture throughout society . They have been consultant architects to the Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa since 1989 . Much of their work may be seen throughout Catalonia, Spain and greater Europe. They remain based in Olot.
Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta, three architects who have worked closely together for almost 30 years in a deliberate and thoughtful approach to architecture are recognized with the 2017 Pritzker Architecture Prize . Their works admirably and poetically fulfill the traditional requirements of architecture for physical and spatial beauty along with function and craftsmanship, but what sets them apart is their approach that creates buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time. They established their office, called RCR for their three first names, in Olot, their hometown in the Catalonian region in the northeast of Spain, resisting the call of the metropolis in favor of remaining closely connected to their roots . The process they have developed is a true collaboration in which neither a part nor whole of a project can be attributed to one partner . Their creative approach is a constant intermingling of ideas and continuous dialogue.
All their works have a strong sense of place and are powerfully connected to the surrounding landscape. This connection comes from understanding – history, the natural topography, customs and cultures, among other things – and observing and experiencing light, shade, colors and the seasons . The siting of buildings, the choice of materials and the geometries used are always intended to highlight the natural conditions and pull them into the building . The Bell-Lloc Winery (2007), in the town of Palamós, near Girona, Spain, for example, a building embedded in the ground, is about the soil that produces the grapes, the cool dark cellars needed for the aging of wine and the color and weight of the earth . The extensive use of recycled steel fuses the building with the earth and the openings between the steel slats allow in hints of light.
The marquee (2011) creating an outdoor dining and event space at Les Cols Restaurant in Olot is another example of the fusion of landscape and minimal modern materials to create a useful and popular venue . Some have said that they are reminded of places for countryside meals with family and friends . The space fits into a valley carved out in the landscape by the architects . Strong walls of volcanic stone support a light weight and transparent polymer roof to protect against rain and sun.
The furniture and vertical hanging blinds that can sub-divide the space are also of clear plastic, which puts the emphasis on food, festivities and the natural setting. In other works, such as their own office (2007), a former foundry built at the beginning of the 20th century, the juxtaposition of past and present is undertaken in a most thoughtful, clear and respectful way . Just as exterior and interior are closely intertwined in their works, so are new and old . All of the original industrial building that could remain, was left “as is” . By adding new elements only where needed and in contrasting materials, the architects demonstrate their love for both tradition and innovation. The resulting building, which they call Barberí Laboratory, is comprised of varied, flexible and highly functional spaces . While Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta have a deep sense and knowledge of history, they use materials and modern construction to create spaces that could not have been created before.
Community is another word that comes to mind when speaking of the work of Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta . Both in the bright and colorful nursery school in Besalú, Girona, El Petit Comte Kindergarten (2010) and the Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizens Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens in Barcelona (2007), those who will inhabit the buildings are at the forefront of their concerns.
It is obvious when seeing the rainbow colors of the tubes that define the exterior of the school that this is for children’s enjoyment, creativity, and fantasy . The library, a commission won through a competition, as are many of RCR’s projects, is situated within the fabric of an existing city block, is a needed amenity in this busy part of Barcelona . Visitors are welcomed into the library . The richness and variety of spaces invite exploration and are casual enough to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere . The library also acts as a gateway to an interior courtyard . The senior citizens center looks onto this space where children, library goers, neighbors and seniors can mingle.
In this day and age, there is an important question that people all over the world are asking, and it is not just about architecture; it is about law, politics, and government as well . We live in a globalized world where we must rely on international influences, trade, discussion, transactions, etc . But more and more people fear that, because of this international influence, we will lose our local values, our local art, and our local customs . They are concerned and sometimes frightened . Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta tell us that it may be possible to have both . They help us to see, in a most beautiful and poetic way, that the answer to the question is not ‘either/or’ and that we can, at least in architecture, aspire to have both; our roots firmly in place and our arms outstretched to the rest of the world . And that is such a wonderfully reassuring answer, particularly if it applies in other areas of modern human life as well .
Each building designed by these architects is special and is uncompromisingly of its time and place . Their works are always the fruit of true collaboration and at the service of the community . They understand that architecture and its surroundings are intimately intertwined and know that the choice of materials and the craft of building are powerful tools for creating lasting and meaningful spaces . For these reasons, exemplified in all their built work, and for their ability to express the local, but also the universal, uniting us with one another through architecture, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta are awarded the 2017 Pritzker Architecture Prize .