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Towards the end of the 1980s, Europe was moving towards a broader Union that was to culminate in the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. As a result of this community project, architects could be called from the public sphere to develop architectural and urban projects that invited a rethinking of a renewed identity. This moment was reflected in complex and optimistic projects such as the Zeebrugge Sea Terminal (1989) and the new National French Library (1989), both competition entries by the OMA studio. At the same time, in Switzerland, the studio formed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron was gradually consolidating the construction of its own architectural language that pursued a “maximum ontological state of matter”, in which the surface and architectural composition were of particular importance. In relation to Herzog & de Meuron’s work, Jeffrey Kipnis pointed out the attractive, seductive use of “cosmetic techniques” that serve to activate subjectivity in the architectural experience. 

After almost thirty years and various socioeconomic situations with moments of prosperity and recession, the European Union is undergoing a political and economic decline that is shaking its identity. The circumstances of each moment have influenced the way in which architecture is conceived and, consequently, the definition of architecture’s appearance. Reacting to the different conditions, European architecture has built a diverse identity and currently faces a reality that calls for urgent responses and efficient solutions. The last two winners of the Mies van der Rohe Award (DeFlat Kleiburg in 2017 and 530 apartments—Grand Parc Bordeaux in 2019) demonstrate the need to value what already exists and highlight committed, imaginative, non impositional strategies that are capable of bringing architecture closer to society. Generally speaking, there is great architectural diversity in Europe, partly because of the evolving, personalized application of cosmetic techniques forged during the 1990s.

On this basis, Quaderns 272 sets out to analyse different cosmetic techniques by means of a critical approach organized on three levels, corresponding to three scales of the project. First, it looks at the current state of the face of the European city, constructed, reconstructed and transformed. Second, it debates the definition of the architectural object, analyzing surface and depth, and, consequently, the idea of artifice from an external view of architecture as well as from a vision of the architecture of the public interior. Finally, like a digital zoom, cosmetic techniques are analysed by means of the study of the architectural fragment while simultaneously attending to the identity of the whole (The piece and the entirety). It is, precisely, the conception of this fragment, increasingly complex and relevant, that contains some of the keys to responding to a possible turn in the discipline of architecture. A turn that may not be so cosmetic.


COAC, Polígrafa


Editorial Directors: Nuria Casais, Ferran Grau


Graphic design: Bendita Gloria


Pep Avilés, André Bideau, David Bestué, Matilde Cassani, Javier Garcia-Germán, Miquel Rodriguez, Enric Llorach, Guillermo López, Mark Pimlott, Addenda, Aixopluc, Barozzi/Veiga, Baukunst & Bruther, Estar, Groupwork + Amin Taha, Herzog & de Meuron, Sauter von Moos, Eric Lapierre Experience, OMA

Use type


Builded surface










MAY - 05.2020

Lecture by Ferran Grau: Sports Architecture. Projectes VI Tarda. Etsab

APRIL - 04.2020

Cosmetics Techniques, Quaderns 272, ready for printing

MARCH - 05.2020

Ferran Grau collaborates in the catalogue of the exhibition “Perdurar” - COAC, with the article “no todo estaba por hacer en Burkina”.

FEBRUARY - 20.2020

Presentation of the AT architectural journal (n. 22) by its directors Nuria Casais and Ferran Grau. “Nature and city” seeks to underline the relevance of the debate around the urban development in the natural environment and viceversa.

FEBRUARY - 18.2020

ATRIA Healthcare Home awarded with the Architecture Baumit Prize 2019.

JANUARY - 16. 2020

The article “Puertas, ventanas, muros y otros elementos: reflexiones sobre categorías posmodernas contemporáneas” written by Nuria Casais and Ferran Grau pubished in LIMAQ journal (n.5), edited by Universidad de Lima.

JANUARY - 14.2020

Ferran Grau participates in the debate “UNFINISHED: Ideas, images and projects of the Spanish Pavilion at the XV Biennale di Architettura di Venecia” (Cooperativa d’arquitectes Jordi Capell, Barcelona).

DECEMBER - 10.2019

“Habitat store”, project selected for the Catalan Architecture Archives that is fostered by COAC.

SEPTEMBER - 30.2019

2nd Prize. Competition for the Refurbishment of the Sport Facility in La Clota, Barcelona.

SEPTEMBER - 03.2019

The exhibition XI Bienal Alejandro de la Sota opening, with the Residencia ATRIA (awarded project), L’Hospitalet de l’Infant (Tarragona).

APRIL - 26.2019

Residencia ATRIA awarded at XI Biennal Alejandro de la Sota.

APRIL - 04.2019

The exhibition of the XIV Spanish Biennial of Archiecture and Urbanism “Más habitar, más humanizar” includes the Residencia ATRIA, and it opens at Convento de Santa María de los Reyes, Sevilla.

MARCH – 10.2019

The exhibition “Arquitectures en el paisatge. 2000-2017” in the COAC (Vic) includes the project “Habitat Store”. Open till April 8th.

MARCH –06.2019

“ATRIA Home” published in IoARCH magazine (number 80).

JANUARY – 22.2019

Opening of the exhibition XIV Bienal Espanyola d’Arquitectura i Urbanismo “Más habitar, más humanizar” at La Arquería de Nuevos Ministerios a Madrid. The exhibition includes the project “ATRIA Home” that was finalist at the XIV BEAU.

NOVEMBER – 19.2018

Nuria Casais will participate as jury member in the Trabajos Final de Màster presentation, Màster “Diseño de espacios urbanos, arquitectura y movilidad.»

OCTOBER - 18.2018

Opening of the exhibition “Import WB Export Bcn Re-activate the city”. Ferran Grau contributes in the catalogue with the essay “Una arquitectura activa”(An active architecture). The exhibition is part of Cities Connection Projects and is edited by DPR Barcelona.

SEPTEMBER – 19.2018

Ferran Grau and Nuria Casais will be at EURAU 18 symposium, in Alicante, presenting “TILIBFOP. A research on the European architectural identity” and “NAC: A new regional estructure” respectively.

AUGUST – 01.2018

Nuria Casais appointed as Teaching Assistant at Arkitektskolen Aarhus in Denmark.

JULY – 19.2018

ATRIA Home project is shortlisted in the XIV Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo “Más habitar, más humanizar”. The opening of the XIV BEAU exhibition will take place in Santander (Spain).

JUNE – 14.2018

“Home where is home?”, Nuria Casais and Ferran Grau will lecture at Instituto Cervantes in Sidney.

FEBRUARY – 01.2018

Ferran Grau, Nuria Casais y Rafa Mateo, selected to direct the number 273 of Quaderns d’Arquitectura i Urbanisme, published by COAC and Polígrafa editorial.

NOVEMBER – 01.2017

Nuria Casais is appointed to teach at ESDesign – Escuela Superior de Diseño de Barcelona in the Master “Diseño de espacios urbanos, arquitectura y movilidad”.

OCTOBER - 18.2017

Ferran Grau will lecture in “Puig I Cadafalch, arquitecte de Catalunya” presenting “Josep Puig I Cadafalch, una actitud arquitectònica vigent”.

SEPTEMBER - 29.2017

GRAUCASAIS awarded with the second prize in the open competition for the LLAR RESIDÈNCIA Casa Bloc, Barcelona.

MAY – 26.2016

The Habitat store project, shortlisted in the «Unfinished,” Pabellón Español for the Bienal de Arquitectura de Venecia. Catalogue edited by the Fundación Arquia and Ministerio de Fomento, 2016.