2017 Pritzker Price – For the first time the most prestigious architecture award went to a little-known team of professionals rather then individual architects generally known for opera houses and skyscrapers. “Today’s complex world has promoted, in an exaggerated way, the value of the individual. This award represents an answer we believe is needed, because ideas arise from dialogue and conversation, like in a spoken jazz.” say Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta founders of RCR Arquitectes.
The Catalan studio has been working on mostly local projects for almost 30 years, avoiding international limelight, excess and starchitects’ gimmicky and pandering attitude. “Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions. Their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity.” Says Tom Pritzker.
RCR Arquitectes reconverted an early 20th-century foundry building in Olot, north-east Spain, into their own studio. They kept the original elements of the building like a crumbling wall and a steel structure. Large glass expansions blur the indoor and outdoor environment creating a fine play of light and shadow.
“In our architecture we try to select one or few natural and authentic materials in order to do the maximum with the minimum. Each material has different and subtle changes in color and texture. This bare uniformity can make the space appear in a very pure way” explains Carme Pigem. For their studio in Olot, they treated the steel insertions with different finishing, from brute and rusty to varnished and shiny.
In the city of Rippol, Catalunia, the Lira public square fills a gap with a void instead of a solid volume. An open air box made of weathered steel is located where a theatre once stood steel and hosts a square accessed by a new pedestrian bridge across a river.
The Tossols-Basil Athletics track in Girona merges with an oak forest. The track avoids the trees and is coloured green to blend with its surroundings.
Vertical louvres and an exposed tiled roof frame the Raw House in Olot. In the central space contemporary insertions form a sunken kitchen and dining level. Above, with two separate mezzanines for lounging and sleeping seem to float facing a giant glass wall at the back.
In their home-town Olot, RCR Arquitectes completed also Les Cos Restaurant Marquee where clients can dine “al fresco” under a canopy made of metal pipes and translucent plastic courtains.
Stark Cor-ten steel blocks cantilevered over a sloping landscape wrap the Soulages Museum in Rodez, France. The galleries are linked by glazed corridors and bridges, forming a route through the museum.
The Bell–Lloc Winery in Palamós on the coast of Girona welcomes visitors on an atmospheric journey into an underworld of winemaking. A descending pathway with angled steel sides leads to the wine production machinery and barrel storage areas where slithers of light penetrate through a vaulted steel roof.
El Petit Comte Kindergarten in Besalú, Spain, features a kaleidoscope of colourful tubes inspired by kids’ crayons to create a playful environment without corridors.
All photos: courtesy of Pritzker Price.