RCR Arquitectes rank among highly respected contemporary studios of architecture not only in their native Spain. The group was established in 1988 by Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta. Their constructions dialogue very sensitively with their surroundings, avoid superfluous or rhetoric forms, while blending care and force. RCR Arquitectes is based in the town of Olot, Gerona Province. The countryside around this little town, in which this team of architects established itself in 1988, has exerted a fundamental influence on their work.
“To live and work in harmony with the countryside“ – this slogan has been accompanying the Catalan studio of RCR Arquitectes since its very beginning. This is also one of the reasons for which the architects have established themselves in the little town of Olot, situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees. Although they create their works far from the pulsating city of Barcelona, they demonstrate on several fundamental projects that rural environments are not completely unknown to contemporary conceptions of architecture. Despite a complete breach of established interpretations of construction suitable for these places, their architectonic works correlate delicately with the surrounding countryside and are in a complete harmony with nature. Using patinating steel known under the name of Corten, which considerably lowers the rate of corrosion, the RCR studio has included in its constructions a material that completely identifies itself with the character of the ambient countryside.
Carme Pigem, one of the RCR architects, who participated in the Architecture Outside the Centres held in Liberec last year, said, among other things: “After completing our studies in a large city, we naturally returned to our town, Olot. We did not even give thought to other possibilities, as we found this quite logical. We were given important advice for our career by our professor – you have to turn down the first large customer. When you, beginning architects, are approached by someone offering you a gigantic project in an immensely attractive place, turn them down. It is a trap. Many talented architects spent the first years of their careers chasing a chimaera. The result was only an enormous amount of wasted energy, which they could have invested into small but meaningful projects. – So when an investor came to us offering us work on a complex of over 300 apartments, we said: No“….
After building a number of houses, a stadium, a restaurant and boarding houses in Olot, RCR Arquitectes present the essence and topographic approach of their work on the work Horizon House in Girona, Spain, completed in 2007. This residence is literally set into the ridge of the hill, with glass and steel parallelepipeds protruding in regular intervals. A similarly sensitive approach may be found in a number of other projects. Just for instance – Dressing Rooms in Olot (1998), Culture Centre in Riudaura (1999), Athletic Stadium in Olot (2001), Winery Bell-Lloc in Palamos (2007), Public Space Teatro La Lira in Ripoll (2011), a number of private residential houses, or for a change, in 2014, in Rodez, France – the remarkable open Soulages Museum.
Apart from frequent use of the material like Corten, mentioned before, RCR Arquitectes also takes advantage of the qualities of glass. Let us remind you of the work in which they use its play of colourful filters – the nursery building of Els Colors in Manlleu, or making use of transparency in the renowned restaurant with hotel Els Cols in Olot.
We can find another element in its bamboo garden – metal laths that underline the natural metaphor. These can then be found in one of the “non-Spanish” realisations, for instance in the construction of the crematorium in Hofheid, Belgium, where these laths make up the cladding of the outer walls, symbolising the foliage of trees. In this manner, the architects achieve the effect of air and light entering the crannies of the building, and disturbing the material cover, resulting in what is, in this case, the intention, but also an important theme of RCR Arquitectes – “making the intangible tangible“.
The high perceptiveness to nature brought the architects to another activity, which has been, for a number of years, their position as consultants to the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Nature Reserve.
The work / the architecture / RCR has very strong ties to the place in which it is situated, and it has to be added that this place also creates a strong atmosphere.
RCR Arquitectes’ first exhibition not only in the Czech Republic but also in Eastern Europe, is not presented by means of a portfolio presentation, i.e. by “mere“ pictures of constructions realised so far, but, as they have expressed it by themselves, “By means of photographs / Hisao Suzuki, Emiliano Roia, Pep Sau, Marc Checinski / you can experience different atmospheres in architectonic spaces, like in architectonic compounds … and make the intangible tangible“.