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Soulages Museum, 2014, Rodez, France – in collaboration with G. Trégouët | © Hisao Suzuki
Soulages Museum, 2014, Rodez, France – in collaboration with G. Trégouët | © Hisao Suzuki
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RCR Arquitectes of Catalonia Wins the Prestigious 2017 Pritzker Architecture Prize

Picture of Charlotte Luxford
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 2 March 2017
Catalonian trio Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta have won what is known internationally as architecture’s highest honour – the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta
Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta | © Javier Lorenzo Domínguez

The new 2017 laureates were announced by Tom Pritzker, chairman of Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award. The three architects come from Olot and have worked closely together for almost 30 years, since setting up their firm RCR Arquitectes in their hometown in 1988.

Bell-Lloc Winery
Bell-Lloc Winery | © Hisao Suzuki

‘Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area,’ said Pritzker. ‘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.’

La Cuisine Art Center, Nègrepelisse, France
La Cuisine Art Center, Nègrepelisse, France | © Hisao Suzuki

The firm’s commitment to place and its narrative is what set them apart this year, as each project seeks to create connections between the interior and exterior spaces, resulting in exceptional, emotional and experiential architecture.

La Lira Theater Public Open Space, 2011, Ripoll, Girona, Spain – in collaboration with J. Puigcorbé
La Lira Theater Public Open Space, 2011, Ripoll, Girona, Spain – in collaboration with J. Puigcorbé | © Hisao Suzuki

It’s the first time the trio have won the prize, which is now in its 39th year – the other time the laureates originated from Spain was when Rafael Moneo received the award back in 1996.

Jury chair Glenn Murcutt added: ‘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.’

Soulages Museum, 2014, Rodez, France – in collaboration with G. Trégouët
Soulages Museum, 2014, Rodez, France – in collaboration with G. Trégouët | © Hisao Suzuki

The company’s creative use of materials is particularly interesting, as they apply a wide range of modern and sustainable methods to their work, including employing recycled steel and plastic. Their office, the Barberí Laboratory, is an early 20th-century foundry, which has masterfully blended elements of the original building and selective, highly contrasting new elements.

The Barberí Laboratory
The Barberí Laboratory | © Hisao Suzuki

Notable projects include the recently completed tinted concrete and steel crematorium in Holsbeek, Belgium and they also collaborated on an entrance to the Garrotxa Volcanic Park in Les Preses, which is near their hometown.

Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizens Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens, 2007, Barcelona, Spain
Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizens Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens, 2007, Barcelona, Spain | © Hisao Suzuki

In fact, the firm has committed to a wide range of local projects in Olot, including the Les Cols Restaurant Marquee and the Tossols-Basil Athletics Track, which was completed in 2000. Others in their native country include the Bell-Lloc Winery in Girona and Sant Antoni-Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizens Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens in Barcelona, which were both completed in 2007.

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee, Olot, Girona, Spain
Les Cols Restaurant Marquee, Olot, Girona, Spain | © Hisao Suzuki

Ms. Pigem said: ‘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 recognised.’

In 2013 the trio founded the 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.

El Petit Comte Kindergarten, 2010, Besalú, Girona, Spain – in collaboration with J. Puigcorbé
El Petit Comte Kindergarten, 2010, Besalú, Girona, Spain – in collaboration with J. Puigcorbé | © Hisao Suzuki

This year, the Pritzker Prize ceremony will take place at the State Guest House, Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 20.