Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta, founders of the firm RCR Arquitectes, have been selected as the 2017 laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. This is the first year individual architects will share the prize, marking a distinct shift toward acknowledging collaborative practices for an award that has traditionally singled out individual architects (and has occasionally generated controversy for doing so—Robert Venturi’s 1991 prize, for example, was not shared with his wife and creative partner, Denise Scott Brown, despite the fact that she had been a partner in his firm since 1969). Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta are the second laureates to be honored from Spain (Rafael Moneo received the prize in 1996).
The architects, who are best known for designing buildings that are sensitively integrated into the surrounding landscape and combine understated geometry with rugged materials to produce complex spatial experiences—as exemplified by the dramatically cantilevered Cor-Ten steel volumes of their Musée Soulages in Rodez, France—will together receive a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and a bronze medal.
“They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building,” chair of the jury Glenn Murcutt said. “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.” On receiving the prize, Pigem said, “It is a great joy and a great responsibility. We are thrilled that this year three professionals, who work closely together in everything we do, are recognized.”
Based in their hometown of Olot in the Catalonian region of Spain, Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta have worked collaboratively for nearly three decades. After founding RCR Arquitectes in Olot in 1988, they have worked on a variety of projects ranging from art museums to kindergartens, including La Cuisine Art Center (Nègrepelisse, France, 2014), Soulages Museum in collaboration with G Trégouët (Rodez, France, 2014), La Lira Theater Public Open Space in collaboration with J Puigcorbé (Ripoll, Girona, Spain, 2011), El Petit Comte Kindergarten in collaboration with J Puigcorbé (Besalú, Girona, Spain, 2010), and Bell-Lloc Winery (Palamós, Girona, Spain, 2007). In 2013, the trio established the RCR BUNKA Foundation to support initiatives—ranging from exhibitions to publications—that expand the reach of architecture and landscape design into culture at large. They have also served as consultant architects to the Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa in Spain since 1989.
The jury comprised Glenn Murcutt, chair, architect, and 2002 Pritzker Laureate; Stephen Breyer, US Supreme Court Justice; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator; Kristin Feireiss, architecture curator and writer; Lord Palumbo, architecture patron, chairman emeritus of trustees at Serpentine Galleries, and former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain; Richard Rogers, architect and 2007 Pritzker Laureate; Benedetta Tagliabue, architect and educator; Ratan N. Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group; and Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Prize and dean of the IE School of Architecture & Design in Madrid, Spain.
Founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, the annual Pritzker Architecture Prize honors a living architect or architects whose work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The 2016 winner of the prize was Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta will be honored at the Pritzker Prize ceremony, which takes place at the State Guest House of Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on May 20.