Born-and-bred granadinos, Javier Castellano Pulido, 41, and Tomás García Píriz, 38, first met in the early 2000s while studying at the Escuela Téchnica Superior de Arquitectura de Granada. Now they are professors, practitioners, and Ph.D.s, and the influence of their historic home base is evident in their built work and research. “Granada shapes our way of looking at the world,” says García Píriz. “It’s not Madrid or Barcelona; it belongs to the periphery, and gives us both distance from and perspective on the rest of the architecture scene.” Referencing Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which represents Venice as the perfect distillation of all cities, Castellano Pulido explains, “We like to think the same of Granada. We find many layers of different cultures, different histories, mixed together here.”
The duo established CUAC in 2008—the same year they participated in the 11th annual Venice Architecture Biennale. For the Spanish Pavilion, they exhibited plans (created prior to formally joining forces) for an adaptive reuse project: the headquarters of ARENA Media in Madrid, which was built in 2010. “Introducing a new trendy office in an old building was a fairy tale for us,” says Castellano Pulido. “We love doing work over work—that is, work in already built structures,” adds García Píriz. Since then, the firm’s designs have consistently taken a thoughtful approach to examining and showcasing the heritage of each project, utilizing existing structures, materials, or histories to enhance the program.