2017 Pritzker Prize Awarded to Obscure Spanish Practice RCR Arquitectes

It's a departure from the typical "starchitects" who have won in previous years.

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta. Photo Javier Lorenzo Domínguez, courtesy of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The world-renowned Pritzker Prize—which in the past has been awarded to “starchitects” like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Zaha Hadid—has shaken it up, giving the 2017 honor to RCR Arquitectes, a little-known Spain-based practice made up of three Catalan architects.

Based in the Catalan province of Girona, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta founded their practice in 1988, and are known for working primarily within their local area of Olot. This marks the first time that three architects together have won the prize.

Among their creations are the La Lira theater in Ripoll, Spain, and the Soulages Museum in Rodez southwestern France.

The work of RCR Arquitectes is known for paying particular attention to local surroundings in which they build, drawing from traditional Japanese architecture. They use modern materials, including recycled steel and plastic, to execute their projects.

El Petit Comte Kindergarten (2010). Image Courtesy Hisao Suzuki.

El Petit Comte kindergarten (2010). Photo courtesy Hisao Suzuki.

“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,” the 2017 Pritzker Prize Jury said in a release.

“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,” said Glenn Murcutt, Jury Chair.

La Lira Theater Public Open Space (2011). Image Courtesy Hisao Suzuki.

La Lira theater public open space (2011). Photo courtesy Hisao Suzuki.

Other noted projects include La Cuisine Art Center (Nègrepelisse, France, 2014); Les Cols restaurant marquee (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2011); El Petit Comte kindergarten, in collaboration with J. Puigcorbé (Besalú, Girona, Spain, 2010); Bell-Lloc Winery (Palamós, Girona, Spain, 2007); Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizen’s Center and Cándida Pérez Gardens (Barcelona, Spain, 2007); and Tossol-Basil Athletics Track (Olot, Girona, Spain, 2000).

The three will officially be honored at the State Guest House, Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 20.

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