Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta Named 2017 Pritzker Prize Laureates

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta have been named as the laureates of the 2017 Pritzker Prize. Their projects emphasize materiality and craft – considered use of color, transparency (and thereby light) define an oeuvre which ranges from public buildings to houses, a kindergarten and a winery.

The three architects—all of whom are Spanish Catalan and originate from Olot, Girona (where they are all presently based)—have worked collaboratively together as RCR Arquitectes since 1988; they simultaneously graduated in Architecture from ETSAV, the School of Architecture in Valles (Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura del Vallès) a year prior. This 39th incarnation of the Prize represents the first instance in which three architects have been recognized at once, and only the second time—following Rafael Moneo in 1996—that Spanish practitioners have been honored.

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Their near three-decade-long professional relationship has demonstrated “an unyielding commitment to place and its narrative” in order to create spaces that are in discourse with their respective contexts. By “harmonizing materiality with transparency, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta seek connections between the exterior and interior” resulting in an architecture which is “both emotional and experiential.”

Row House (2012). Olot, Girona, Spain © Hisao Suzuki. Image Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize

Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta have spent their respective careers developing, for the most part, projects with a profound local focus and influence; the large majority of their built work has been in Europe with a dominant focus on the Iberian peninsula and Spain in particular. Within this framework they have sought to evoke a universal identity by employing a material palette including the likes of recycled steel and plastic. “They’ve demonstrated,” according to Glenn Murcutt, Chair of this year’s Jury, “that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building.” He continued:

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.

It is clear that this thread—the value of locally-produced architecture in a globalized world—has been a key concern in relation to their selection. “More and more people fear that because of [...] international influence,” the Jury’s Citation states, “we will lose our local values, our local art, and our local customs.” The jury believe that the laureates “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.”

Bell–Lloc Winery (2007). Palamós, Girona, Spain. © Hisao Suzuki. Image Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize

Speaking exclusively to ArchDaily in relation to this prize Ramon Vilalta asserted that “by being ‘isolated’ we haven’t been distracted by professional problems, such as jealousy. We have not wasted our time on criticism. When you’re distracted,” they argue, “you can’t go into depth.” They contend that, in “a world that moves very quickly and is very restless, [...] the word ‘uncertainty’ goes hand in hand with ‘complexity’” – “you can’t confront uncertainty with simplicity.” The contemporary world, they maintain, “can be disorienting.” As practitioners, they have spent a career focusing their passion on their architecture with a “great intensity.”

In this sense, what can this prize give us? I’d like to be able to do less projects but with more intensity.

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Soulages Museum. (2014) Rodez, France. © Hisao Suzuki. Image Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize

In 2013, the three architects founded the RCR BUNKA Foundation to “support architecture, landscape, arts and culture throughout society.” They have also participated in, among others, exhibitions including the III Salon International de l’Architecture in Paris in 1990 and the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016). They have received the National Award for Culture in Architecture 2005 granted by the Catalonian government; the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2008 and 2014; been named Honorary Fellows of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) in 2010; granted International Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 2012; and were awardees of the Gold Medal by the French Académie d’Architecture in 2015.

Barberí Laboratory (2008). Olot, Girona, Spain. © Hisao Suzuki. Image Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize

2017 Pritzker Prize Jury

  • Glenn Murcutt (Chair): Architect and Pritzker Laureate 2002. Sydney, Australia.

  • Stephen Breyer: U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Washington, DC.

  • Yung Ho Chang: Architect and Educator. Beijing, The People’s Republic of China.

  • Kristin Feireiss: Architecture Curator, Writer, and Editor. Berlin, Germany.

  • The Lord Palumbo: Architectural patron, Chairman Emeritus of the Trustees, Serpentine Galleries; Former Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. London, England.

  • Richard Rogers: Architect and Pritzker Laureate 2007. London, England.

  • Benedetta Tagliabue: Architect and Educator. Barcelona, Spain.

  • Ratan N. Tata: Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group. Mumbai, India.

  • Martha Thorne (Executive Director): Dean, IE School of Architecture & Design. Madrid, Spain.

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee. (2011) Olot, Girona, Spain. © Hisao Suzuki. Image Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize
Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta Photo by Javier Lorenzo Domínguez

This Pritzker Prize ceremony will take place at the State Guest House of the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 20, 2017.

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Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta Named 2017 Pritzker Prize Laureates" 01 Mar 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/806200/2017-pritzker-prize-rcr-arquitectes-rafael-aranda-carme-pigem-ramon-vilalta> ISSN 0719-8884

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