Pritzker Prize Laureate 2017: RCR Arquitectes

Architecture
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Architecture, as a media, possesses the great potent of reflecting a specific era, yet simultaneously holds the esteem to bring about great change in the society. Since time immemorial, architecture has been a tool of relaying the stories of millennia in human years. The evolution of architecture is the most evident means to draw parallels with the evolution of humanity itself.

The present scenario speaks of a diverse picture of architecture. While we witness exemplary ideals of architectural practice on a daily basis, we also notice cityscapes marred with haphazard planning, lack of regular development and entire cities succumbing to the pressures of overpopulation and encroachments. Many of these are familiar to us, being issues local to our surroundings.

The crux of these issues is constantly being determined by specialists and researchers, and there are tireless efforts on many fronts to resolve the issues, and bring forth a gradual era where architecture aids in establishing norms with functional planning, spatial quality, enhanced aesthetics and essentially, sustainability.

We realise that examples of great architecture have been surrounding us, which truly act as an inspiration in the face of the challenges, encouraging us to apply principles to our design and raise efforts in achieving our goals. In order to reflect upon the same, we are bringing forth a new range of stories, of examples of good architecture, from around the world, which are termed as classics.

Architectural history can never be determinedly divided into specific periods or styles. As each phase evolved from the previous or amalgamated from numerous others, there has been a certain fluidity in architectural history. While scholars have derived the notable periods in architectural history, based on distinctive styles and sociocultural events which affected the same, we recognise classic architecture in two realms. One, which speaks of the yesteryear era, which comprised of timeless structures, including statuesque monuments at grand scales, and the other, which consists of buildings belonging to a modernist era, primarily examples that are situated in the more present day and age, in order to highlight the achievable goals.

Aiming to constantly improve ourselves, and indulge in learning, especially due to the number of resources available to us today, we are initiating into this foray with the introduction of works celebrated by the Pritzker Prize, the highest mark of honour deemed to architects presently. Awarded to one architect every year for their inspiring works and exemplary practice, it encompasses what good work in architecture means, a state of achievement we yearn to behold.

Pritzker Prize Laureate 2017: RCR Arquitectes

As the world gradually recognises the importance of architecture from a global perspective, in realms of all associated professions, it has become essential for architects to adhere to the sensibilities and responsibilities which are associated with the title. Recognising context, studying the surroundings, ensuring innovative and suitable solutions, while considering not only creativity but stakeholder participation and varying perspectives are the tenets that come under the requirements of a holistic practice of architecture. While being challenging, the need of the hour necessitates it.

In a departure from convention, last year the Pritzker Prize announcement conferred their honour to not solely one, or even a couple of architects, but to three architects. The winners, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta are practising architects in Spain, and have given notable examples of good architecture through their studio, RCR Arquitectes in the year 1988, a year after their graduation from the School of Architecture at Valles. Never once parted, they have depicted a united approach, collaborated among themselves to present different perspectives, and created examples of architecture, which may be regionally located within their immediate radius, but has potentially impacted the global scenario.

1L-R: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta Source: New York Times 
A perusal of Practice through Projects:
‘Els Colours’ Kindergarten, Barcelona
Architects: RCR Arquitectes
Location: 08560 Manlleu, Barcelona, Spain
Project Area: 927.0 m2
Project Year: 2004
Construction: Construccions Ferrer, SA / Construccions Metàl·liques Olot, SL
Collaborators: M.Tàpies, Blázquez-Guanter, Grau-Del Pozo, enginyers SC, M.Subiràs, M.Linares. J.Torrents, G.Rodriguez, M.Braga, F.Spratley.
 

Recognising the value of spatiality with regard to an individual quality is an elemental value cherished by architects. While designing for children, therefore, specifics need to be considered and measures need to be implemented to ensure that the spatial experience of a child need be comforting, and yet, not stagnant, allowing the child to grow and evolve. Therefore, the juxtaposition of the separate blocks and the interspersing corridor and interactive spaces have been given due emphasis and strong consideration in order to use the spatial factor into an enhanced experience, for children perceive spaces in a largely different manner from adults, and scale of design became an instrumental factor.

Opting for a metallic vertical and a concrete horizontal composition, the use of specific material, such as glazed façade in laminated glass, opaque aluminium doors, lattice elements with metal plate structure, and coloured glass, ranging in shades of red and yellow are all elements that add to the spatiality, by the different properties they possess. Opting for varying specifics in the interiors according to function, such as plasterboard tiling and enamel paint for walls and ceilings and partitions which have metallic structure, with linoleum flooring in the floors in ground floor, and PVC flooring where higher humidity is observed, the upper floor, the overall effect has been achieved, of ensuring a place where children can actively engage in, where they do not find the scale imposing and where various features have been opted which appeal to their sensitivities.

2Source: www.archdaily.com
3Source: www.archdaily.com

 

4Source: www.archdaily.com
5Source: www.archdaily.com

 

Joan Oliver Library, Barcelona

Architects: RCR Arquitectes
Location: Carrer Comte Borrell, 44, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
Project Architects: RCR Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, Ramón Vilalta Arquitectes
Project Area: 4171.0 m2
Project Year: 2007
Collaborators: O.Gallez, G.Tregouët, C.Marzo (Proeixample), A.Sáez , C.Carrasco, Blázquez-Guanter, arquitectes, Grau-Del Pozo enginyers, M.M.Guaragna, M.Braga
Construction: Vias y Construcciones, SA

The site of the library is located within an urban plot, which bears the flavours of a traditional indigenous style of architecture. Essentially acting as a gateway to the community, the library comprises of a recreational space for reading, a retirement home for the elderly, a façade of a public space for the community residing adjacently and the interior of the block has been designed as a playground space for children, virtually assessing recreational requirement for all in a residential zone.

Built within a glazed façade, the blocks of the library are placed along two sides of the public open space, and allow light to filter in, not only making it an idyllic reading space but allowing the structure itself to place an emphasis on itself as a door to the community. The retirement home, similarly, places itself along a cul de sac and allows its placement to seek an active interaction with the play area, the idea being the mingling of playing children with the elderly, as the retirement home defines the space itself with its front yard and backyard.

The defined emphasis on different spaces according to their functions indicates clarity and comprehensive design, where each space holds its identity and yet forms an integral part of the entire composition. The material usage and linearity depict defined forms, and especially within the context, induce the library to stand out, and mark itself for appreciation of gazers.    

6Source: www.archdaily.com
7Source: www.archdaily.com
8Source: www.archdaily.com
9Source: www.archdaily.com
10Source: www.archdaily.com11Source: www.archdaily.com

 

 

Bell-Lloc Winery, Girona
Architects: RCR Arquitectes
Location: Palamós, Girona, Spain
Project Architects: RCR Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, Ramón Vilalta Arquitectes
Project Area: 981.0 m2
Project Year: 2007
Photography: Eugeni Pons
Collaborators: G.Puigvert, A.Lippmann, M.Ortega, Blázquez-Guanter arquitectes, BT Enginyeria.
Budget: 648.552 €

 The design of the Bell-Lloc Winery is predominantly defined by its location, and how the form is oriented around the region, and the requirements accorded by the brief, of building a warehouse for private production and consumption of wine. The location of the structure is the start of a valley, at the foot of the mountain of a protected space. While the main functions have been situated underground, with the necessary machinery, tasting room and a small auditorium, the path leading towards them is moulded as a promenade, which runs against the natural backdrop of the earth and the greenery. Yet, it is not solely designed to lead, but encompasses spatiality due to its own form, and is meant to highlight a different experience.

The usage of material resonating with the natural earth, and as well as the geometry adopted for the form are inducers of lesser energy consumption while complying with the exuding sense of cool and refreshing which are required in order to truly appreciate the taste of wine. The exemplary manner in which a site has been moulded, to keep in accordance with the sense of the function, while ensuring a certain uniqueness as well as energy expenditure concerns, indicate the merits of the sensitive location-centric design.

12Source: www.archdaily.com
13Source: www.archdaily.com
14Source: www.archdaily.com
15Source: www.archdaily.com
Soulages Museum, Rodez
Client: Communaut’ d’agglom’ration du Grand Rodez
Architect: RCR Arquitectes
Size: 6100 m2
Completion Date: January 2014

Dedicated to renowned French artist Pierre Soulages, the museum has a collection of his works and is truly a masterful tribute to his spirit and his inspiring art. The museum is located in Rodez, the artist’s hometown, in southwest France, and adheres to the climatic and surrounding context. The structure is integrated into the landscape, and exudes a comforting and peaceful vibe, allowing one to experience tranquillity while perusing the works of art, mindfully paying tribute to the artist.

The first glimpse of the museum is through the trees of the Foireil Garden, the main park of the town, providing a good foreground, the weathering steel structure standing out. One can observe a series of five rectilinear blocks, windowless, their individual verticality complemented by the horizontality of their composition. Comprising of gallery spaces, a small auditorium, and a café and restaurant, the southern façade appears subdued due to the foreground while the north relays the monumentality. Every region of the space has been designed while pertaining to individual functional requirements, for instance, a space dedicated at the back, where light does not reach, for the work displayed on sensitive material, along with detailing for other spaces based on the kind of exhibit, including a space for temporary exhibition.

16Source: www.architecturalrecord.com
 17Source: www.architecturalrecord.com
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19Source: www.architecturalrecord.com
Other Projects:
La Lira Theatre Public Open Space, Girona:

The story of this project began after the demolition of La Lira Theatre, which left an empty urban space, along with the side of the Ter river. Fulfilling the idea of a community space, and encompassing the sense of the former theatre, the void space was transformed into a covered town square, complete with a pedestrian walkway extending from the public space, and crossing the river to the other side.

The design follows the geometry and context of the site, and the location and the reflected innate connection with the historicity of the town, as well as the natural elements around portrays a picturesque scene.

20Source: www.publicspace.org
21Source: www.aasarchitecture.com
22Source: www.aasarchitecture.com
23Source: www.pritzkerprize.com
El Petit Comte Kindergarten, Girona

As previously indicated, the projects that RCR Arquitectes undertakes, are all diverse, and yet that is due to the very fact that they all are designed according to an underlying principle of context compatible composition. The most striking feature of the kindergarten is the design of a shroud, encompassing the school structure, which has been composed of long vertical tubes, of different colours on the colour spectrum, seemingly a giant set of colour pencils, representing vibrant childhood and artistic expression. Some tubes are not solely decorative, but rotate, inviting interactive play, and each façade is designed in a floor to ceiling length tinted glass, allowing light to filter through and create engaging and attractive illumination.

 

24Source: www.pritzkerprize.com
25Source: www.architectmagazine.com
26Source: www.architectmagazine.com
Les Cols Restaurant Marquee, Girona:
27Source: www.pritzkerprize.com
28Source: www.architectmagazine.com
29Source: www.architectmagazine.com
30Source: www.architectmagazine.com
Barberi Laboratory, Girona:
31Source: www.pritzkerprize.com
32Source: www.architectmagazine.com
33Source: www.architectmagazine.com

The declaration of the 2017 Pritzker Awardees surprised many, not because of the nature of architectural work projected by the RCR Arquitectes, which is assertively nothing short of exemplary, but due to the fact that currently, their projects lie within a defined range, and do not have a global presence. However, the award is admittedly justified, for regardless of the location of the work, the inspiring example set by adhering to context-based practice, while ensuring a confluence of supreme aesthetics, and vitalization of sustainability has a global influence. Their practice denotes the wise words, “Think globally, act locally’, a mantra adopted and propagated as a means to change the world, one good step forward at a time.

The celebration of architectural work extends beyond notability in form and innovative designs, with the social, economic and ecological responsibilities of the architect being essential aspects to their practice, in order to pave the way for idyllic architecture across the globe, on a wider basis than as the current statistics suggest, for truly, it is the need of the hour.

-Devashree Vyas, Volume Zero.

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