The winning architects have been hosting UWA architecture students at their Spanish office, the Espai Barberi in Olot, for the last three years.
In total, 70 UWA architecture students have studied at the award-winning firm, designing works that investigate and celebrate La Garrotxa’s volcanic landscape.
Senior Lecturer Emiliano Roia, from UWA’s School of Design, oversees the placement of UWA students within RCR Arquitectes. The firm’s recent win, says Roia, underscores the calibre of professionals with whom UWA architecture students are able to work.
“The Pritzker Prize is considered the most prestigious award in Architecture internationally,” Roia explains. “The Pritzker Prize ‘honours a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture’.”
Roia first came across the work of RCR Arquitectes in 2003 when he saw their work featured in El Croquis.
“I can recall a great deal of interest and curiosity triggered by that publication [El Croquis]. It featured architecture that could barely be defined as such: in those works the landscape was playing a crucial role. I hadn’t seen anything like that before,” Roia recalls.
But it wasn’t until 2012 that Roia attended an international workshop run by RCR Arquitectes. The experience inspired him to produce a photographic series of the firm’s works, which was later published and exhibited in Australia, Spain and the Czech Republic.
Deciding he needed to share the experience with UWA’s architecture students, Roia—with the support of UWA School of Design Dean Professor Simon Anderson—established a Design Studio, during which students spend five weeks at RCR Arquitectes in the Spanish city of Olot.
During their placements, UWA students not only interact with outstanding international architects while designing innovative works, but also gain an understanding of architecture with a humanistic spirit and a broad range of thought. Additionally, the students visit RCR Arquitectes’ award-winning buildings in the region and in France, and several UWA students have even completed work experience at the Spanish firm beyond the duration of the Design Studio.
Being embedded with award-winning architects is an experience that students don’t easily forget. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with students’ comments including: “…the many invaluable lessons learnt and memories acquired will continue to resonate… thank you for the opportunity.”
One reason for the resonance of the experience is the unique design principles applied by RCR Arquitectes.
In the words of RCR Arquitectes: “Innovation will only be possible if it is present in the very first stage where necessity becomes a question that requires an answer, and if it is referred to by all participants in its response.
“It is essential to understand that architecture is not an object, not a hermetic unit superimposed into a location; it is rather a system of spatial relations, and with this we mean the whole: the constructed form, the landscape, the location, the people, and the architectural brief. They all merge together in order to create a rooted architecture, an architecture that is a landscape.”
Now, Roia is working to develop the relationship between UWA’s School of Design and RCR Arquitectes even further. Together with RCR, he is working on Laboratorio Barberi, a five-year teaching and research program developed through design studios run both in Olot and in Perth. Additionally, Roia hopes to bring RCR Arquitectes to UWA to engage with students and the wider community.
View selected works by Pritzker Prize winning firm RCR Arquitectes here.
The Olot Summer Studio 2017 Exhibition, featuring works from students embedded at RCR Arquitectes, will take place at the School of Design from 21 March to 20 March. For more information, contact the UWA School of Design.
Verity Chia (Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education) (+61 8) 6488 1346