This year, The Pritzker Architecture Prize “the Nobel of the Architecture” is awarded to a humble trio of architects from Catalonia, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta, who have been collaborating together since 1988 in their company RCR Arquitectes, founded in their home town of Olot in Girona, just one hour of Barcelona.
The world’s most prestigious architecture prize is normally reserved for the most well-known “stars” and “trend-setters” of the industry with already famed and renowned buildings and so, to see a small-town, rural Catalonia based group of architects take home the award speaks volumes for their talent.
The three are united and their work characterised by their capacity to work in harmony with the environment, parallel to the setting in which their buildings are to be placed. Sensitive to the surroundings, the three use materials skilfully to play with light and shade, integrating their designs with the landscape around them.
Their ability to work in unison with the environment and blend their work into it as if it were a part of it can be seen particularly in their famous work of the Pavilions of Olot’s two Michelin star restaurant, Les Cols. Here, they have designed a space to stay overnight next to the restaurant which totally blends in with the outside landscape. The trio have extremely cleverly played with light and used it to bring a natural feel to the space, making you feel like you are in a forest and not a building.
Some of their best work includes the Les Cols restaurant marquee in Olot, Girona; the Tossol-Basil Althletic Track in Olot, Girona and El Petit Comte Kindergarten in Besalú, Girona.
El Petit Comte Kindergarten is possibly one of their most creative buildings, designed unmistakably for kindergarten children. For this building, they swapped conventional walls for a kaleidoscope of colourful tubes that look like colouring pencils. Some tubes are transparent to allow every room to look onto the world outside.
Based in Olot, Catalonia, their work has mainly taken place in the North-east region of Spain but namely Girona and their home-town. Recently, the three have ventured outside of Spain to France but they are very much local architects who have stayed closed to home, loyal to their origins and dedicated to improving public areas and bringing more life to small towns in Catalonia.
The three have also been consultant architects to the Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa since 1989.
Olot is a small and quaint town but full of character and breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes. The Montsacapa Volcano in Olot give 360 views of the city from the top and the town itself is rich in artistic culture. Painting, sculpture and ceramics have been the key elements in the art of Olot and the artistic history and traditions of the city can be seen in several museums dotted around the town.
The natural environment in Olot is one of the most well-preserved in Spain with its many protected natural parks and RCR Arquitectes, through their innovative ideas, have helped create new and exciting ways to enjoy the outside spaces of the town.
The natural beauty of the area has also facilitated the fusion of their work with the environment.
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