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Pritzker 2017: winners announced!

Posted by
on March 03, 2017 at 05:56 AM

And once again it is time to hear the name of the winner of the Pritzker Prize, dubbed as the Oscars for architects! However, in 2017, for the very first time in the history of the Pritzker Prize, the award has been given to not one - but three architects! Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta of Spanish studio RCR Arquitectes have been named as the 2017 laureates of the Pritzker Prize. This year is also significant, as the selection busts the popular notion that this glamorous award is generally endowed to stellar architects working on large scale projects. By recognizing the work of RCR Arquitectes and choosing a lesser known trio for this prestigious award, the Pritzker has motivated several architects doing pathbreaking work on a less grandiose scale.

© Courtesy of internet sources

Started in the year 1979 with the aim of revering living architects doing extraordinary work in the field, this global award, was fashioned after the Nobel Prize. This year made the Pritzker Prize, 39 years old. The winning architects will be felicitated at a ceremony held at the State Guest House in Tokyo on 20th May 2017, with a grant of $100,000 and a bronze medal. The trio got together in 1988, for the inception of their practice RCR Arquitectes, and since then, have been working together. Slowly, but effectively, they have worked their way up and even ranked 249 on the Dezeen’s Hot List. The studio works out of their hometown, Olot, a city in Spain’s Catalonia Region.

Even though the architects are globally lesser known, and haven’t done major work outside of Spain, they still managed to catch the eye of the Pritzker jury. That speaks volumes about the quality of architetcure produced by them. Their work can be styled as modest, site driven, functional and at the same time spatially beautiful. To quote the citation, “But what sets them apart is their approach that creates buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time.”

"Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area," announced the Pritzker jury, which was overseen by an Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt. "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. They've demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building. 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."

"We live in a globalised world where we must rely on international influences, trade, discussion, transactions," said the jury. "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. 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."

Renowned architectural historian William JR Curtis, had some really nice things to say about their work, stating that they are one of the very best in the world today. He has also recently written a monograph on their work. He adds, “They avoid the excesses and facile image-making of the international star system and its so-called icons.” He believes their work is a unique blend of different styles, ranging from Mies van der Rohe to the steel blade sculptures of Richard Serra; the inheritance of Catalan modernism to the Zen gardens of Kyoto. He describes it as an exploration of “a middle ground between architecture, landscape and abstract sculpture and in the process heightening the perception of the natural world.”

Thomas J. Pritzker, the chairman of Hyatt Foundation, who also sponsors this award, said, “Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award. Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area. For us, it’s very important to work together — one of the most important things we talk about is shared creativity. It’s not a question of one person; it’s all three. Sometimes we say six hands, one voice.”

In a special video made by Pritzker, the architects are seen discussing their approach to architecture that has evolved over almost three decades of collaboration. "When we begin a project, we are very interested in visiting the place," says Carme Pigem. "We are used to 'reading' the place as if it spoke to us with its own alphabet – an alphabet established between the site and us. It is also very important to study what we are to do there. We don't like to start with a typology or assumptions." Ramon Vilata, stated in a previous interview, “We have always tried to flee from fashions, or make architecture located in a precise moment. We believe that architecture is construction and that construction must be well done. Then it will last.” This very attitude towards architecture, has facilitated them to do context-sensitive work that they are acknowledged for, and led them to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. 

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