Trio of Spanish Architects Wins the 2017 Pritzker Prize
Together they have been in the architectural profession for 30 years
Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta have dedicated themselves to architecture for three decades. Recently, their commitment to the architecture of their homeland led to them being awarded the prestigious 2017 Pritzker Prize.
These three remarkable architects are not only partners and colleagues but also close friends who have been on this journey together for a long time. After graduating from the Vallès School of Architecture (ETSAV), they returned to their hometown of Olot, a small city nestled among four volcanoes in the Garrotxa Volcanic Reserve. The breathtaking natural landscape surrounding their design office has undoubtedly influenced their design sensitivity.
RCR Arquitectes, the firm they founded, showcases their unwavering dedication to their roots. Their works beautifully incorporate individual elements to create harmonious spaces. With their skillful blend of the visible and invisible, Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta have mastered the art of connecting the exterior and interior perspectives. Their architecture is a testament to their experience, emotions, and the passage of time.
One of the materials frequently used in their designs is stainless steel. RCR Arquitectes embraces the marks of time by utilizing rusted or recycled steel in their projects like the Bell-Lloc wineries, Soulages Museum, and La Lía Theatre. For them, steel represents the age and transformation brought about by climate changes over time.
Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library Complex, Center for the Third Age, and Candida Pérez Park, Barcelona, Spain, 2007
According to the jury, Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta have made a significant impact on the architectural world. Their ability to seamlessly integrate public and private spaces in cultural and educational sites showcases their deep understanding of each environment. Their thoughtful approach to design is evident in their careful consideration and delicate balance.
Their collaboration sets a remarkable precedent, as this is the first time in Pritzker history that a trio has been honored. They work together, create together, and bear equal responsibility for their projects. Their unity and shared vision have led to this well-deserved recognition. This is only the second time a Spanish architect has received the Pritzker Prize since Rafael Moneo in 1996.
Receiving this prestigious award was an unexpected joy for the trio. Carme Pigem expressed her excitement, saying, “It is a wonderful experience. It was a great pleasure, we were surprised when our cooperation was recognized.”
These architects have demonstrated their boundless creativity and innovative use of materials. By incorporating modern materials like recycled steel and plastic, they have showcased the beauty and strength that homogeneity brings to a building. Their works represent a blend of the past, present, and future while respecting local values, art, and customs.
Barberi Research Center, Olot, Girona, Spain, 2008
In addition to their architectural achievements, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta have actively contributed to their community. In 2013, they established the RCR BUNKA fund to support architecture, landscape, art, and culture. They have also served as consulting architects for the Natural Park of La Garrotxa since 1989. Their impact extends beyond their native Catalonia, reaching Spain and Europe.
The ceremony for the 2017 Pritzker Prize will take place at the State Guest House, Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 20, 2017.
To celebrate the remarkable works of these Spanish architects, let’s explore some of their outstanding projects:
Tossol-Basil Athletics (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2000)
Crossing through the beech forest, the Tossol-Basil green running track seamlessly blends into its natural surroundings. This track, which respects the existing trees, offers a captivating view for spectators. The changing colors of the surrounding landscape throughout the seasons make it truly magical. The architects predominantly used a single material, Cor-Ten steel, to create this unique architectural masterpiece.
The Tossol-Basil track allows nature to thrive.
Bell-Lloc Winery (Palamós, Girona, Spain, 2007)
Nestled in the heart of a vineyard, the Bell-Lloc Winery seamlessly harmonizes with nature. The partially underground production and tasting cellar perfectly reflects the unity of architecture and the environment. This extraordinary space also features a prayer room and a small auditorium. Inside, rays of light penetrate the subterranean space through openings in the ceiling, creating a captivating ambiance.
The Bell-Lloc Winery combines natural light and steel materials.
Kindergarten El Petit Comte (Besalú, Girona, Spain, 2010)
In collaboration with Joan Puigcorbé, the architects designed the Petit Comte kindergarten as a colorful haven for children. The building, shaped like a simple rectangle, features colored plastic bars that resemble a rainbow. Vertical cylindrical tubes, resembling pencils, add a playful touch to the structure. The central courtyard provides a protected space for children to play, while the plastic columns allow colorful light to flood the interior.
A project with the colors of the rainbow for children to enjoy.
Open Space Cinema La Lira (Ripoll, Girona, Spain, 2011)
Collaborating with Joan Puigcorbé, the architects transformed a plaza between two old buildings into a covered public space with movie theaters. A square steel box with angled corners and open ends forms the heart of this open-air cinema, overlooking the beautiful River Ter. This unique space accommodates various recreational activities and features a multifunction room below the cinema. A bridge connects the cinema to the old areas of the town.
The bridge connects La Lira with the old buildings of the town.
Les Cols Restaurant (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2011)
Les Cols restaurant offers a unique dining experience in harmony with nature. The transparent Plexiglas dining tables, supported by thin metal tubes, give the impression of dining outdoors while providing protection from the elements. The design evokes memories of family picnics and gatherings with friends in the countryside. With the capacity to accommodate hundreds of diners, this restaurant stands out from traditional enclosed spaces with its open architecture and abundant natural light.
Les Cols creates a unique dining experience with its transparent roof.
Townhouse (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2012)
When renovating a home in their hometown, the architects ingeniously concealed the old architecture’s tiled roof within thin vertical walls. The main area of the house is brilliantly illuminated by a massive glass wall at the back. The modern integration of the kitchen and dining area, coupled with separate lounging and sleeping mezzanines, adds a touch of contemporary elegance to the renovated interior.
A perfect renovation of old architecture.
Culinary Arts Center La Cuisine (Nègrepelisse, France, 2014)
Situated within the historic stone walls of a castle, the Culinary Arts Center La Cuisine offers a captivating blend of steel and glass. The architects added new spaces, such as a kitchen, exhibition and educational areas, and a workshop for artists, while maintaining the integrity of the original structure. Large windows at the front allow an abundance of natural light to flood the interior, creating a vibrant atmosphere.
The main material used inside the hub is steel.
Soulages Museum (Rodez, France, 2014)
Located in the charming town of Rodez, the Soulages Museum is a testament to the architects’ creativity. The museum, inaugurated in 2014, comprises a series of adjacent rectangular steel blocks connected by corridors and glass bridges. Its striking design, made solely of Corten steel, showcases the architects’ ability to create galleries and exhibition spaces that seamlessly blend with the surrounding environment.
Museums are rectangular steel blocks stacked one on top of the other.
These are just a few examples of the outstanding works of Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta. Their architectural achievements have pushed boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on the world of architecture.
To learn more about their inspiring work, visit the Caravansarai website.