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Winners of Pritzker architecture prize 'dialogue' with nature

Updated: 2017-03-18 07:26

Three relatively unknown Spanish architects - Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta - recently won the prestigious Pritzker Prize for modern works that are deeply rooted in their local surroundings.

The choice was seen as a move away from the celebrity architects that have dominated the field in favor of a trio of professionals who have worked together for 30 years in their hometown of Olot in Catalonia.

Nestled deep in the countryside of Spain's northeast, Olot is surrounded by beech trees, marshes and volcanoes - a dramatic natural landscape that has long inspired their work.

In a globalized world, the prize announcement 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 ... our roots firmly in place and our arms outstretched to the rest of the world," it said.

Among their most celebrated buildings are the La Lira Theater public space in Spain and the Soulages Museum in Rodez in southwestern France.

"Their vocabulary is metal," especially weathered Cor-Ten steel, which has been deployed at some of their best-known works, said Francis Rambert, who directs the French Architecture Institute at the Chaillot museum in Paris.

But light also plays a fundamental role in their creations, Rambert said, referring in particular to Les Cols, a restaurant in Olot where the rooms have glass walls on all sides, while still providing a sense of intimacy.

"You feel as if you are alone," he said.

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 a trio.

"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 recognized," Pigem said.

"Sometimes, it feels as if you have to choose between the local and the global. With us, everyone can understand that you can be closely tied to the local while being open to the world."

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