Spanish practice Nieto Sobejano Acquitectos has been awarded the 2015 Alvar Aalto Medal, Finnish architecture’s most prestigious award, for its contributions to creative architecture.

The prize was established by the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA), and recognises a career instead of one particular building or project. Australia’s Pritzker Prize winner Glenn Murcutt was a recipient in 1992.

Nieto Sobejano was founded by Spanish architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano in 1985 and specialises in exhibition and museum buildings, as well as demanding renovations and extensions. Its portfolio extends across Spain, Germany, Austria, India, Estonia and Morocco.

San Telmo Museum, San Sebastian. Image: Stefan Tuchila

The award-winning practice was part of the initialinternational shortlist to design and transform Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales, alongside David Chipperfield Architects, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Kerry Hill Architects. Thelist has since been whittled down to five firms.

According to the 2015 jury, which includes Finland architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Simo Freese, Wessel de Jonge from the Netherlands, and Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen from Denmark, Nieto and Sobejano were key to the new wave of Spanish architecture that emerged in the late 1970s.

Contemporary Arts Center Córdoba. Image: Roland Halbe

“The roots of their architecture lie in Spain, and its multi-layered history and culture. Their works speak a silent language, proving that the precondition of meaningful architecture is an in-depth understanding of local culture and the context of the design brief,” the judges noted.

The Alvar Aalto medal is presented every three years and was designed by its namesake, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Its amphitheatre shape, which forms the basis for the relief figure on the medal, is a recurrent motif in Aalto’s architecture.

Auditorium And Congress Center Expo, Spain. Image: Roland Halbe

Moritzburg Museum Extension, Germany. Image: Roland Halbe

Alvar Aalto Medal recipients:

1967 Alvar Aalto
1973 Hakon Ahlberg (Sweden)
1978 James Stirling (England)
1982 Jørn Utzon (Denmark)
1985 Tadao Ando (Japan)
1988 Álvaro Siza (Portugal)
1992 Glenn Murcutt (Australia)
1998 Steven Holl (USA)
2003 Rogelio Salmona (Colombia)
2009 Tegnestuen Vandkunsten (Denmark)
2012 Paulo David (Portugal)
2015 Nieto Sobejano (Spain)

Images: Archdaily and Alvar Aalto Foundation