In May of 2017, the Pritzker Prize will be presented in Tokyo to the 3 principals of RCR Arquitectes: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta. The prize is the highest accolade in the world of architecture and has never been awarded to a three people team before. When it was announced on March 2nd, Michel Bras and Pierre Soulages rejoiced. One of the teams’ more recent projects was the Soulages Museum and Café Bras in Rodez.
Pierre Soulages and Michel were both born in Aveyron, France. One is an artist, the other, a self-proclaimed “artisan”. Soulages is a renowned modern painter whose minimalist work (often known as “the painter of black”) can be seen worldwide in museums including the Guggenheim, The Tate Modern and over 90 others. He is the first living artist invited to have been invited to exhibit at the state Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg.
In May of 2014 Soulages opened an eponymous museum in his birthplace, Rodez, France, donating 500 pieces of his work (since then he has donated additional pieces).
To design his museum, Soulages chose the team of Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta, a relatively unknown trio who work under the name of “RCR Arquitectes”. Their attention to geographic location and topography had impressed him. RCR’s stark steel and glass building reflects and compliments the artist’s modernist aesthetic and perhaps echoes their own home volcanic terrain in northern Catalonia, Spain.
To create a restaurant, the artist chose fellow Aubrac-native, Bras, whose aesthetic he described as “the artist who renders the most subtle of natural flavours sublime, by taking them to a higher plain.” Bras is at home in Soulages’ minimalist environment, which echoes his own natural approach to cooking.
When designing Café Bras, the architects had to fulfill both the Bras family’s as well as the artists’ expectations. This project came to completion thanks to mutual respect for and understanding of each other’s sensitivity and feelings. Café Bras lies within a wing adjacent to the rest of the museum, accessible via either an exterior courtyard or through the museum; and serves as an inviting environment in which visitors can enjoy a light lunch or desserts created by Michel and Sébastien. The menu is complementary both to the building and to the art housed within. Michel says of the collaboration: « I feel blessed to have worked with RCR Arquitectes. »
The Soulages Museum is a must see for all lists combining art, architecture and cuisine all of which are tributes to the rugged urban terrain surrounding them.