A cluster of windblown branches sprouts from a tree stump in front of a museum in Ascó, Spain. The tree is sufficiently battered that I wonder why architects Olga Felip and Josep Camps kept it. “Our landscape doesn’t have a lot of character. But it does have lots of history,” said Felip. That little tree looks like it has seen plenty.
Felip, 30, and Camps, 36, are the two partners of Arquitecturia, a nine-person firm in Barcelona, Spain, which won a competition to design the Balaguer Law Court just five months after it started in 2006. The partners, who are married to each other, look for cues in the landscape or locale to imbue ordinary building programs with a haunting power. Both hail from Catalonia, a semi-autonomous region within Spain that retains its own language and culture. Asked if their Catalan status gives them a unique outlook on architecture, Felip answers, “Absolutely. We studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture and had very strong leaders in Carlos Ferrater and Elias Torres. They have what I consider a Catalan way of doing architecture—in how they consider the site, understanding all of its historic layers and trying to feel the context.”