Lunch Time Discussion with Carme Pigem - RCR 

by Hao Wang

On September 25th, 2018, Carme Pigem (RCR) from Spain came to McGill for an evening lecture. During lunch time, McGill architecture students had an opportunity to talk to her about RCR’s practices, their ideas and thinking. María González (Sol89), Juanjo López de la Cruz  (Sol89) and Laura Domínguez were also joining the panel with us. Special thanks to Ankit Gongal (U3) for organizing the lunch time discussion event. 

= McGill Students
CP = Carme Pigem (RCR)
MG = María González (Sol89)
JC = Juanjo López de la Cruz (Sol89)

Q: How important is the site-visit to your practice, and what is the process of site-visit for RCR?

CP: Site-visit for us is to appreciate the condition of the site. In order to get the unique and specific project inspiration. The emotion of belonging is coming from the site of architecture. We visit a site not only to understand the geography, the topology, the conditions of the site but also the feelings of the site. What you feel that needs to be informed, that needs to be hidden. So that’s the two things: one you can say it is related to numbers, the objective, and the other is related to dreams, the emotion, and how you can balance the two. There are also two questions we ask ourselves when we do a site visit, one is “what we have to do?”, that is related to the programs, the needs; the other is “where we are going to be?”, that is related to the site.

JC: Yes I think you have to ask yourself a question that what is architecture to you. Is it the art of construction or is it to express yourself? So you need to understand your action

Q: Do you tend to work and research on what to look for before going to the site, or do you just go there and do it at the place, or do you combine these methods?

MG: I think architecture practice is not a linear process. Sometimes is linear, sometimes you reflect afterwards. It’s never one way or the other.  


















Rural House / RCR Arquitectes

Q: I was fascinated by one of your watercolour drawings, can you talk more about how do you study light and shadow?

CP: We are using watercolour and sketches because we feel these sketches would show the sensual ideas better than a complete drawing. In the earlier stages, you have ideas, but you don’t have a final drawing. These watercolours have more power to convey ideas. Our approach was not that defined yet, but its a way of understanding what are we thinking at an earlier stage.

You have to think if you want to do architecture as a factual business or if you want to do something more interesting.  You’re not only proposing the functions and programs, but you are also proposing a way to relate to the landscape. So it’s very beautiful to spend the time to explore the ideas and relationship to nature

Q: if someone has a site, do you think there’s always a way to fit a program into a site that seems unfit?

CP: you cannot do a project “fighting” with your client, you need to have a lot of patience and passion. You need to spend a lot of time thinking and speculating, you need to move forward with your client together.

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee / RCR Arquitectes

Q: It’s very interesting that you talked about the program in terms of both numbers and feelings, can you talk more about the feelings that you get from the program? How do you approach the feelings that you get from the program?

CP: When we are talking about the dreams or the problem, it is something very related to us: the sensuality. We think it’s always important to go deeper, to get the most essential part of the problem. If we are talking about the sensuality of things, then it becomes common ground, it becomes a universal language. 

For example, we had to design a lighthouse for a competition. When we think about a lighthouse, we think about a place that holds the light that has some machinery within to guide the fishermen in the sea, with a specific height and position. Most of us, as architects, think of lighthouse as a light tower. However, we realized that a lighthouse is essentially a source of light, it's not a tower. The lighthouse began as a fire on the beach. The site of the lighthouse was a very steep cliff, and the light source needs to be at the same height as the top of the cliff. Most of the project came in as a tower in the middle of the cliff. We came in, with a “hand”, hanging from the top of the cliff, and positioned like a hand hanging the light. The architecture solution only comes when we are trying to understand the essence of the problem.

Les Cols Restaurant Marquee / RCR Arquitectes

San Antoni Library / RCR Arquitectes

Q: Do you do any theoretical research?
CP: I think that's something that goes together. When you do projects you discovered things and you started to read things and apply the things you read. it only depends on your attitude, on how you are looking. You can learn from anything, it doesn’t matter. Its something that goes together, it’s not like you do some theoretical. Architecture is not a job from 9-5, it's something that grows in you.
JC: I think architects don't only research on the project he’s working on, he is researching on everything. Sometimes things come to the table when the times comes. The things we research .sometimes you read things that resonate with the projects you’ve done in the past, and even make you understand your past project.
Q: How do you make decisions towards the end of the project.
CP: what is nice towards the end of a project is that you understand the details through main ideas, and through the details, you understand the idea better. What is important is that they go together: it’s the same drawing. Just like writing a novel, the detail belongs to the main idea of the story.
Soulages Museum / RCR Arquitectes