The Pritzker Architecture Prize winners were announced recently and three lesser-known Spanish architects walked away with the honors. It’s heart-warming to see their achievements recognised by the most prestigious architecture award – for their designs are rooted in local landscape and culture.  This is also the first time that a trio has won the award – leading to speculation that it might be the end of the ‘star-chitect’ trend.

The winners, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta, are from the small town of Olot in the Catalonian region of Spain where they share a studio called RCR Arquitectes. They have worked together since 1988, designing and building impeccable works that are integrated into the local landscapes. 

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta winners of the Pritzker Prize

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta. Photo: Javier Lorenzo Domínguez

The 2017 Pritzker Prize Jury Citation states, “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.”

Here are some of their notable designs with notes from the architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta:

Bell-Lloc Winery, 2007

View of the interior of the winery toward the tasting room. The slats allow air, light and rain to enter and create ever changing shadows.

Bell–Lloc Winery 2007 Palamós, Girona, Spain

Bell-Lloc Winery. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Below: From the forest, the valley extends towards the sea. The vineyards cover the cellar and the folded roof protects the laboratory and the walkways. Cellars for private wine production and tasting are located between the vineyards and the woods, and designed so that part of it is underground, creating a union where landscape and buildings become one. A promenade is defined by tilted recycled steel sheets with slits to allow natural light to penetrate. Visitors descend into the underground world of wine where there are large recycled steel vats, suspended barrels and bottles in racks.

Bell–Lloc Winery 2007 Palamós, Girona, Spain

Bell–Lloc Winery 2007 Palamós, Girona, Spain. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

The folded metallic roof with the inclined walls of one of the laboratories of the winery creates a large window with views toward the forest.

Bell–Lloc Winery 2007 Palamós, Girona, Spain

One of the laboratories of the Bell–Lloc Winery. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Finally, a view to the exterior walkway that connects with laboratories and work areas on one side, and the wine cellar on the other. A great view of the forest here!

Bell–Lloc Winery 2007 Palamós, Girona, Spain

Bell–Lloc Winery Exterior Walkway. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Soulages Museum 2014

in collaboration with G. Trégouët

Located in the southern French city of Rodez, Soulages Museum houses the works by the abstract artist Pierre Soulage. The building, realized in collaboration with local architects, Passelac et Roques Architects, is formed by a succession of cubes. Using just one material, Cor-Ten steel, the building and landscape merge together and will slowly change over time.

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Since the opening, temporary exhibitions have displayed Soulage’s works. The dimensions and lighting of the gallery allow for many different types of exhibitions.

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France

Soulages Museum 2014. Rodez, France. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

View towards the entrance showing the dialogue between the parts of the building and the slats of Cor-Ten steel.

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

View of the interior of the museum showing the relation between the space and the paintings of Soulages.

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France

Photo: Hisao Suzuki

View of the museum from the city side, showing the container-like galleries and the stepped path that makes a connection between the city and the park.

Soulages Museum 2014 Rodez, France

Photo: Hisao Suzuki

La Lira Theater Public Open Space, 2011

The demolition of La Lira Theater left an urban void in the historic district of Ripoll, a town in Girona, overlooking the Ter River. With recollections of the scale and spirit of the former theater, and also understanding the importance of town squares, the architects have created a unique covered square, suitable for many types of activities and an outdoor space to be enjoyed informally by residents.

Beneath this, there is an underground multi-purpose room. The new Lira structure frames the view across the river toward the newer part of the town and the mountains beyond. When approaching by the new weathering steel footbridge, also designed by RCR, across the river, it forms a gateway to the old part of town. Weathering steel, the predominant material used throughout, evokes the metallurgical past of Ripoll.

La Lira Theater Public Open Space, 2011, Ripoll, Girona, Spain

La Lira Theater Public Open Space, Ripoll, Girona, Spain In collaboration with J. Puigcorbé. Photo by Hisao Suzuki

The covered square seen from the opposite bank of the Ter River.

La Lira Theater Public Open Space 2011 Ripoll, Girona, Spain

La Lira Theater Public Open Space 2011 Ripoll, Girona, Spain. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

El Petit Comte Kindergarten 2010 Besalú, Girona, Spain

In collaboration with J. Puigcorbé

The new municipal school, built to free up the old site in the town, has about 80 children occupying its 1000 square meters. Vertical tubes (some structural) of different diameters create a perimeter using a rainbow of colors, which some have likened to giant colored pencils surrounding the building.

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

Some of the tubes rotate and invite the children to play. Floor to ceiling glass is used to enclose much of the building, so that natural light full of color filters in.

ElPetitComteKindergarten_2

El Petit Comte Kindergarten. Photo: Photo Hisao Suzuki

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee 2011 Olot, Girona, Spain

Seeking to evoke family picnics in the countryside or outdoor gatherings with friends, RCR has created a semi-open event and banqueting space near Le Cols restaurant in Olot, Spain. The terrain was hollowed out to make the structure unobtrusive, but also allow for beautiful views of the surrounding volcanic countryside. The stone that was removed was returned to the site in the form of walls, embankments and pavements. The whole space is covered by a lightweight, transparent roof to protect against the elements. The steel catenaries supporting the roof give it an appearance of “floating”, while the acrylic, almost invisible furniture, allows the people, food and countryside to take center stage.

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee 2011 Olot, Girona, Spain

Le Cols restaurant in Olot, Spain Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Barberí Laboratory 2008 Olot, Girona, Spain

The old Barberí foundry, built at the beginning of the 20th century was acquired by the architects in 2004 for their office, which they like to call Barberí Laboratory. The previous building had smoke-laden walls, ceilings and floors from previous fires. The materials, colors and smells of the old furnace and chimneys provided the powerful starting point for the new project.

Barberí Laboratory 2008 Olot, Girona, Spain

Photo: Hisao Suzuki

There are three main parts to the office, the double-height library which runs along the length of the building, a second building opening onto the courtyard with workstations, and a new glass enclosed pavilion supported by iron columns. The original materials – wood, stone, and ceramics – are in contrast and dialogue with the new steel and glass, which were added to make highly functional and inspirational spaces. The trees and ferns in the interior courtyard spaces make both a divergence and a connection between architecture and nature.

Barberi_laboratory

Barberi_laboratory. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Row House 2012 Olot, Girona, Spain

From the patio, it is possible to understand the single central space and how it is used, and see the stairs and services located at each side. In the architects’ home town, a new house was inserted into the space between two walls when an old house was removed. The main façade has been preserved, as required by the town for heritage purposes, and the new house is conceived as a single space with “floating” platforms at different levels to create the interior living spaces. Several of the platforms serve as seating benches and frame the space.

RowHouse

Row House. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Although the space is almost entirely open, privacy is afforded by limiting views to some areas. There are two side corridors that run along the depth of the building, encased with steel slats extending to the ceiling that houses the staircases, bathrooms, and utility rooms. The wall towards the back garden is glass, fusing interior and exterior. The idea is to return to what is essential to a home, reducing the number of parts to those that are absolutely necessary, and rethinking the nature of the house to allow the life inside to flow naturally.

Row House 2012 Olot, Girona, Spain

View from the living room into the dining area and kitchen below, and a bedroom above. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Source: Pritzker Prize

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