Three Spanish architects win the Pritzker Prize

Architects Ramon Vilalta, Carme Pigem and Rafael Aranda in a 2009 file photo.
Architects Ramon Vilalta, Carme Pigem and Rafael Aranda in a 2009 file photo.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Three relatively unknown Spanish architects – Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta – on Wednesday (March 1) won the prestigious Pritzker Prize for works that are modern but deeply rooted in their local surroundings.

The choice was seen as a move away from the celebrity architects that have dominated the field in favour of the home-grown vision of a trio of professionals who have worked together for 30 years in their hometown, the Catalonian town of Olot.

In a globalised world, the citation said, people increasingly fear “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,” it said.

“They 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.”

Among their most celebrated buildings are the La Lira Theatre Public Open Space in Spain and the Soulages Museum in Rodez, France.

Photos of the trio's works can be seen here:

It is only the second time that the Pritzker prize has gone to Spanish architects, and the first time that it has been shared by three laureates.

“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 recognised,” said Pigem.

The winners’ 20-architect firm, RCR Architectes, has completed projects in Belgium, France and even Dubai, but the bulk of their work has been in Spain, much of it in Catalonia.

“Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize.

Glenn Murcutt, the jury chair, praised their creative use of modern materials including recycled steel and plastic to produce buildings of “incredible strength and simplicity.”

“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,” Murcutt said.

The prize will be awarded to the three Spaniards in Tokyo on May 20.