The Contemporary condition and the new paradigms

by Rui Mendes

In this selection of works by young Catalan architects, we can perceive principles, positions and purposes that reveal convergences in the time and space in which they operate. The disquiet facing the economic and social crisis we are going through is at the origin of this thorough work of selection and organization by the trio of Catalan architects Pere Buil, Carlos Cámara and Joan Vitòria.

The political, social and economic conditions and contexts specific to each period in history necessarily lead to the evidence that new times show new knowledge, which can be expressed as ‘thought and construction’.

The lucidity of these architectures is chiefly related with the capacity to put things into context, to develop a thought-action from their particular work conditions. This means that, rather than trying to construct an axiology of the universe, with a predetermined order of values, they prefer to operate case by case, transforming the elements they have access to. These operations are strengthened by planning strategies according to the conditions and resources of each commission.


The evidence of the materials and the particular attention to the building processes represent what these architectures have in common. In their operative and aesthetic dimension, they are not limited to the construction of space, being also committed to the intimate definition of the atmosphere.

If thoughts on Economy and Ecology, as in a holistic view of the construction-use-reuse process, are predominant themes in these works, we are also able to see – especially in the wider context of the presentations in Lisbon – that these thought processes depart from different approaches: A more strategic perspective, whether departing from a topic of reference, such as in the projects of Harquitectes and Ted’A Arquitectes, or from the focus on the biography of the original building towards a history of continuity relationships, such as in the proposals by Núria Salvadó + David Tapias and Bosch.Capdeferro;

An approach based on the relationship between energy efficiency social engagement, such as in the buildings by Josep Bunyesc and DataAE, or based on the environment qualification supported by the building features and drawing, such as in the projects by David Sebastián + Gerard Puig and unparell d’arquitectes;

A more experimental dimension (material and sensorial) in the works by Francisco Cifuentes and Emiliano López + Mónica Rivera.


Of all these works, the public projects (museum, hotel, cultural centre, school) or hybrids (house- studio, shed-studio) are the ones which show, in tandem with the material characterization, more unexpected solutions on spatial relationships.
If a greater conceptual control of the building ensures a greater cost control and promotes a better social and collective awareness, the combination of programs and consequent juxtaposition and mutation of uses provide, important contributions for the dissolution of prejudices associating space to function.

Viewed as a whole, the works by this group of architects emerge as cohesive and communicate renewed experiments for a reality in change (also in Catalonia). 

Paraphrasing Jacques Derrida, “We need to write in the margins”. There is no need for great texts; what we need is notes and strong sensations prompting us to remember and reflect upon a certain page. We will be looking forward to new sensations coming from Catalonia.