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Each year, the most esteemed architects from every corner of the globe battle it out for the industries most sought after accolade—The Pritzker Prize. The biggest bounty in the realm of architecture is an international award that honors a living architect whose work combines talent, vision, and contributes to humanity.

Seeing off stiff competition, this year’s winners Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta rise to the pinnacle of the profession. 2017 marks a departure from the norm, as the unknown trio has spent their career in obscurity, inconspicuously improving the local landscape in Girona, Spain. The most glamorous gong in the business usually goes to famous names with glitzy galleries and opera houses. The radical decision has left some of the top brass in the business aghast. Some are calling it a travesty, a horrendous break from the old guard; others are enthralled, the underdogs hoping that one day they might also claim the same exclusive industry jackpot.

© Javier Lorenzo Dominguez

Thought leaders have lauded praise on the Spaniards citing their collaborative efforts which have reached a poetic level, creating timeless pieces that respect the past, but look to the future. Importantly, their work seeks to blend in an organic way with the environment; a skill that only the very best practitioners can achieve.

They built the Bell-Lloc winery in Palamas to take visitors on an expedition to the underbelly of winemaking through angled walls that feel like an ancient tomb for the dead. Under a cover of rusty recycled steel, those who walk inside are stepping back in time.

Throughout their broad spanning careers, they have made it their mission to respect nature. The Tussols-Basil athletics track outside Olot is respectfully carved out of a nearby forest. Nature and sports are united: runners appear and disappear as they canter around the perimeters of the track. The project illuminates the beauty of natural habitat and manages to preserve the vegetation which changes with the seasons.

Their maxim is that architecture is construction. To respect that ethos, everything they do is built to last. Breaking trends has been their hallmark, steering clear from ephemeral industry fashions.

© Hisao Suzuki

Perhaps their magnum opus, their marquee for Les Cols restaurant displays all their exemplary competencies. The canopy is carved out of the ground with walls of volcanic stone appearing to float over the landscape like a sail in the wind. The Inside and the natural world fuse as one.

The technically adept triumvirate have in recent years left their home territory to produce works in France, of which the Soulages Museum in Rodez and La Cuisine art center have received plaudits from industry pioneers.

The radical change in direction by the jury for the world’s top architecture prize signals a shift in philosophy. It might be that the award will foster a movement towards building within the natural context in which you find yourself; rather than making the environmental fit your plans. As the environment is more vulnerable than ever to the whims of the capitalist machine, a shift to a gentler approach to building is welcomed.

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