By Nora Vasconcelos
Last Wednesday, architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta received the 2017 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honor in the field, and it is very interesting to see, through several photos of their work, how they’ve managed to develop designs that might seem simple but that in fact get a great deal of complexity as they manage to blend with their surroundings, adding to the landcapes colors, lines, spaces and volumes that invite people to interact with them.
These three architects founded their firm RCR in Catalonia, Spain, in 1988. “Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity”, as Tom Pritzker said.
Mr. Pritzker is the Chairman of Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award.
The locally-based architects, adds the press release by the Pritzker Foundation, evoke universal identity through their creative and extensive use of modern materials including recycled steel and plastic.
“They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building,” says Glenn Murcutt, Jury Chair. “The collaboration of these three architects produces uncompromising architecture of a poetic level, representing timeless work that reflects great respect for the past, while projecting clarity that is of the present and the future.”
The 2017 Pritzker Prize Jury Citation states, in part: “we live in a globalized world where we must rely on international influences, trade, discussion, transactions, etc. But more and more people fear that because of this international influence…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. They help us to see, in a most beautiful and poetic way, that the answer to the question is not ‘either/or’ and that we can, at least in architecture, aspire to have both; our roots firmly in place and our arms outstretched to the rest of the world.”
By Nora Vasconcelos
In the second half of the 19th century, José María Velasco enchanted the world with his paintings in which he depicted with precise detail the landscapes of the Valley of México and the outskirts of the Mexican capital.
His studies at the San Carlos Academy, under the guidance of the Italian artist Eugenio Landesio, his deep interest in science, and his encounter with the French Impressionist, combined in a way that he was able to bring alive colourful scenes of the Mexican Landscape.
Velasco did that with such detail that many of his paintings have been the base for the study of the geography and botanic that existed in central México before buildings and houses cover this territory.
His profound love and observation of his country are something that it’s admired up to these days.
His art is just one of the many wonderful things Made in México.
As it is its history and culture, which have been recognized by Unesco. Nowadays, México has the largest number of World Heritage Sites in the Americas, and it’s placed seventh in the world. Part of this list includes the archaeological zones of Chichen Itza, Palenque, El Tajin and Teotihuacan, as well as the city centres of Mexico city, Guanajuato and Morelia.
Modern architects such as Luis Barragán, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Ricardo Legorreta and Teodoro González de León contributed to design the new capital city, bringing strong firm colours to structures that are easily identifiable around the world as Mexican design. Along them, painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and writers like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Carlos Fuentes y Octavio Paz, have gotten high recognition around the world.
Unesco has also designated Mexican cuisine as ‘intangible cultural heritage’. And if course it impossible not to mention the production of Tequila and Mezcal, coveted all around the world. Guacamole and great coffee, are also Made in México.
So, as José María Velasco did in his time, nowadays we can admire México for all its greatness, having in mind that the same as bad things happen in this country, they happen in any other country, and México is a place full of beauty and hardworking people proud of their heritage.
By Nora Vasconcelos
It’s almost the end of the year and as December approaches, I can’t be happier for all the great books I have had the chance to read in 2016. Some of them were new releases, some others were published some time ago; some were famous, some others, wonderful little gems which I’ve luckily come across.
There’s not really a particular order I’ve chosen to present them, it’s merely as they come to my mind. My biggest wish is that these books will bring to you as many delightful hours as they brought to me:
– The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. The magic of this book comes from combining a wonderful location with a very sweet love story and the fantastic presence of books all along the story as the ones that shape the life of all the main characters. If you like France, either because you’ve been there, or because you have the idea of this idyllic country, this is a perfect book for you as wonderful tender descriptions of Paris and the little towns along the main French rivers are presented here. The story will capture your mind from the first chapter when it takes the main characters to an unexpected but charming journey in which not only they will open up to share their deepest fears and dreams but also it will take you along for an introspective trip in which one main question hangs in the air: “what would I do if I found out decades later that I’ve been all wrong about love?”.
– The Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier: I’ve got to read this book thanks to the kind recommendation of my good friend Andrew Hill. The story begins with an unexpected event that makes the main character decide to change his complete life at the age of 57. An inexplicable meeting and a unique book make him drop everything and go to the station to catch the night train to Lisbon. From there, his life will become something very different. Apart from falling in love with Lisbon, I found in this book some of the most wonderful quotes ever about life, books and traveling. This is my favorite one: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
– A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk: Placed in Turkey, this book tells the story of a street vendor who sells a couple of traditional homemade products. The magic of this novel resides in how the story presents at the same time the changes that this country faces for many decades while the vendor grows up, from a little boy to an old man. Pamuk’s masterful way of writing offers the reader a majestic read in the simplest way, developing an easy-to-read novel based on a very complex topic.
– The Phantom Ship by Frederick Marryat: Publish in 1839, this book can be read and enjoyed at any time as it takes the reader’s imagination to a fantastic journey in which the main character goes from ship to ship in order to break an old curse that affects him and his family. Even when some words have the feeling of old English, the skill of the author delivers a fast-paced, easy-to-read story that will absorb you from the beginning to the end. For ship lovers and people who love traveling to exotic lands and adventures, this is a perfect read.
– The only street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino: This is not a work of fiction. It’s the result of an amazing work of investigative journalism combined with the delightful narrative of a New York Times correspondent who fell in love with the rhythm and lifestyle of a particular street in Paris, and out of her immense curiosity and skill as a journalist presents a series of interviews with the owners of the stores located along this street in the form of a delightful memoir/travelogue that makes the reader wish, chapter after chapter, to take the first plane to France and go straight from the airport to the Rue des Martyrs.