Catalan architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta of RCR Arquitectes have been announced as the winners of the 2017 Priztker Architecture Prize. This is the first time the prestigious award has been jointly awarded to three architects. Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta founded their firm RCR in 1988, and since then they have formed an intense and equal collaboration, such that the jury felt that the prize had to be awarded jointly. In the words of the jury chair, Australian Priztker-winner Glenn Murcutt, “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.” Carme Pigem is just the third woman to have been awarded the prize. In honour of RCR’s victory, Specifier revisits some of their great designs.
Barberi Laboratory – Olot, Spain
Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta, until now not well known outside their native Spain, were complemented by the Priztker jury on their ability to create “buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in RCR’s own offices, the Barberi Laboratory. After graduating from the Valles Architecture School near Barcelona, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta returned to their home town of Olot, a city of only 34,000 people, to start their architecture business. In 2004, RCR purchased a early 20th century foundry and, from 2005 to 2008, transformed it into their current office, which they call the Barberi Laboratory, after the original owner. In the renovated building, the original wood, stone and ceramic contrast with contemporary steel and glass, creating the perfect combination of new and old, local and global.
Bell-Lloc Winery – Palamós, Spain
Another example of RCR’s local architecture is located in Palamós, another city in the Girona region of Spain. The RCR-designed Bell-lloc Winery was built in 2007, and it is clad in RCR’s signature COR-TEN steel. The building is half-underground, but still offers impressive views of the countryside. Lighting is provided by skylights made from recycled materials.
Soulages Museum – Rodez, France
RCR’s use of COR-TEN steel can also be seen in their design of the recently built Soulages Museum in Rodez, France. Dedicated to French artist Pierre Soulage, an influence for RCR, this gallery is located in his hometown, a small city like Olot. Created in 2014 in collaboration with local architects Passelac & Roques Architectes, the Soulages Museum is composed of a series of cubes, designed to integrate with their surroundings as they whether over time. The museum presents a monolithic expanse of COR-TEN steel, rather like the monolithic expanses of black in Soulage’s work.