The Pritzker Prize for architecture this year went to a Spanish trio of architects from Catalonia. Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta are the winning laureates, elected in the collective collaboration that they started in 1988, RCR Arquitectes. RCR Arquitectes is a relatively unknown name, a surprising fact, given the enormous significance of their work.
“Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area,” the Pritzker jury said. With an incredible portfolio that spans private spaces and public spaces ranging from cultural and religious spaces to educational complexes, their key characteristic is the specificity of their approach. “We don’t want to do what we do at home and simply transplant it”, Rafael Aranda says, speaking to Dezeen.
Their recent project, Crematorium Hofheide, built in collaboration with Coussée & Goris Architecten, features steel and concrete tinted to look like iron rust. This was done to emulate a common rock found in the vicinity of Flanders, Belgium, where the crematorium is located. The building which was a winner in the 2016 A+Awards, is sunk into a shallow marsh, and looks like it is surrounded by a small waterbody. The architects said they wanted to create “a space that is as close to nature as possible, enhancing our sense that we are part of it”. The earth coloured building also features an external fringe of steel rods that somehow enhance the textures embodied.
This unique capacity to relate so intimately to the specifics of the landscape that is the canvas on which they build is what made them stand out to the Pritzker jury. Another key element in their work is the use of very few materials, to create a sense of unity throughout the construction. This simplicity is paramount to the depth and deliberation that goes behind every design.