In Conversation


Marta Puig de la Bellacasa is the landscape designer who was responsible for adding some greenery to the outdoor spaces of Plácido y Grata.
Plácido y Grata

She was born in Madrid, where she became an Agronomist engineer, and then completed her education in landscape architecture in England, where she also acquired extensive experience in garden and landscape design, as she started out as a junior landscaper in the team that designed the parks for the London 2012 Olympics, today the Queen Elizabeth Park. Upon returning to Spain, she worked at Fernando Caruncho’s studio, an international benchmark in landscaping.

In 2014, she resettled in Seville where she started freelancing until she founded her own studio:Marta Puig Bellacasa Landscape Studio.

Thanks to her extensive and broad experience, Marta Puig has worked in many international projects with numerous architects, engineers and developers, always inspired by the possibilities that every landscape has to offer.

What led you to work in landscape design?

I was unsure about which specialty to choose from in Agricultural engineering. I went for landscaping over viticulture, which was my other option. I firmly believe that dedication and hard work allows you to excel in almost any field in which you decide to work, as long as you commit to give the best of yourself. 

Plácido y Grata

What is the landscape for you?

The architect Luis Barragán had a famous quote: “a successful garden should contain the whole universe” That may sound a bit overwhelming, but so is the landscape: poetry for the eyes. On the other hand, Lorca considered it a place to commit beautiful sins. So the landscape could be anything, from a scene to a memory of a place that you visited. 

It has the potential to evoke, create and inspire wonderful thoughts, feelings and interactions. How is your creative process? There is always previous research where you look for an idea or concept. It is important to visit the place to understand the orientation, topography and all the elements in it. First of all, light is the most important thing. You have to understand it to make proper use of the space and seasonality. You’re creating a stage, and the only light is daylight. Plants won’t thrive unless they get the same light conditions from their origin. Any other factors can be forced by finding technical solutions to solve the problem.

How was working for Plácido y Grata? What did you seek to express? 

This is the first hotel I’ve worked with. And the truth is that I’m very happy with the results. For me, creating a garden is part romantic, bucolic, elegant and minimalist but it also has to be expressive and have a wild component, just like nature itself. We wanted contrasts between textures, leaves and colors. And at the same time sheer simplicity. On every floor and space, outdoor or interior, there is an icon. The hallway with the candelabra cactus and the foxtail agave demonstrate the architectural beauty that plants have by nature.

In the main courtyard the mixture of the starry jasmine and the ornamental vine mingle, and in winter, the vine reveals the rhombus-shaped latticework that was created with a simple and subtle design to avoid overshadowing the architecture The white terracotta plant pots in the mezzanine full of succulents and palmettos are the counterpoint to simplicity and the passing of time. The mix of Mediterranean plants overlooking the patio gives an impression of a wild, variegated nature that is both bucolic and romantic.

Which elements did you want to have in the hotel and which ideas represent?

The concept of the hotel is minimalistic yet feels warm. I think when they called me to join the team, they already knew how important it was introducing plants and a structure that contributes to integrate the architecture all year round. Vegetation should help to identify the hotel and what Placido and Grata wants to show and the type of service they offer. This was how we brought in this element in an appealing way. Plants freshen up the air, but they also add texture, color and the sense of seasonality. They articulate spaces by creating corners, adding privacy and many more sensations that inspire imagination, creativity, calmness… Beauty and functionality go hand in hand, and this is the balance we wanted. 

How do you usually work on the integration of architecture and greenery?

 Ideally, the sooner they call you to become part of the team, the best is integrating one element within the other. Without understating the importance of architecture, it must be noted that plants must come first. They won’t thrive in any place, in any manner. The placement of a tree or a planter, the irrigation and drainage systems, or elements such as  shade or temperature, the position of a pond or swimming pool conditions the construction of the house. Especially if someone has a special requirement or clear idea of what they want for their garden. Nature is so incredible as it is limiting. 

What strikes you the most about Seville and how did you combine these influences?

Seville is a beauty, you could say it is the Spanish Florence. But, certainly the climate. It may surprise you because there are places that are fresh at some point during the day all year round, and that should be noted.

Vegetation can help to define the identity of a space, improve the well-being of the dwellers and help to unite a city. In terms of gardens, Seville has the smell of orange tree and blossom (orange tree, jasmine), fuchsia (bougainvillea) and large green leaves (acanthus, Monstera deliciosa).

What kind of varieties do you usually use in your compositions?

The place rules which plants we can have, so it is always Mediterranean. There are increasingly more species in production and many novelties that I don’t even know, you really have to keep up with catalogs and plant breeders. 

These should be mixed with Mediterranean species from other places such as South Africa (from where the Agapanto is originally), California, or Australia. These two countries are certainly at the forefront. 

At Plácido y Grata, we can find a thornless candelabra cactus, agaves attenuata, palmettos, cycads, westringia (Australian romerinos), starry jasmine, plumbago, metrosideros, mastic, pittosporum, lavender, sedum, agapanthus, but there are also kentias, philodendrons, and monsteras among others.

They combine green tones that go from dark shades to gray or lime green with different leaf shapes and sizes and the color of blooms (purple, white and blue) and autumn (red and orange).

We all dream of having our little garden, but we have to go step by step. Can you recommend some low maintenance indoor plants to bring some life into our environments ?

There are plenty of ficus, kentias and philodendrons that could work in a corner with natural light and no drafts and won’t require much water. Ferns or rapies also work well and do not need great care. But the best is to make some room in the balcony or the terrace to grow some aromatic plants.

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