“The intrinsic qualities of Formentera’s isolation are the determining factors in living and working here”

The architect Marià Castelló at his studio in Formentera
Marià Castelló at his studio in Formentera, Spain

The connection, respect and commitment to the culture, landscape and territory of Formentera have marked the professional and personal orientation of Marià Castelló (1976) and his studio, which opened its doors in 2002.

The intrinsic characteristics of the island (peace, austerity or balance, among others) also mark and inspire the work carried out from this studio, which is defined as small format, self-sufficient, quite artisanal and in which few projects are addressed but in depth. The aim of Marià Castelló and his team is to generate quality of life, beauty, health and happiness to the users of the spaces created.

Architect by the School of Architecture of Barcelona in 2002 with Honors, Marià Castelló’s work has been recognized at European level by being a Finalist of the European Award for Intervention in the Architectural Heritage (2017), Finalist of the XIV Spanish Architecture Biennial (2018), Finalist of the 2017 FAD Awards, Winner of NAN Spanish National Award (2018), Winner of the Awards of Architecture of Ibiza and Formentera (2018), Winner of Best Architects ’20 European Award (2019).

At Decommunity we talked to him about his work, his work in heritage interventions, his beloved Formentera and the future of his studio.

Es Pujol de S'era -
Es Pujol de S’era – Marià Castelló

Begin by telling us who Marià Castelló is and what his work philosophy is

Marià Castelló is a native of Formentera and an architect by the School of Architecture of Barcelona. I would not know how to define a work philosophy, but throughout this interview I am sure that some details would be highlighted and you cant get a better idea.

“We understand the profession in a holistic way and tend to dilute the boundaries between architecture – interior design – object. We like to explore and also get carried away during the process”

Marià Castelló

You finished architecture with honors. From then until now, how have you evolved?

That fact that you describe was a nice way to culminate the university stage that also served to open some doors in the imminent professional stage. Thanks to the honors degree I got some small public and private commissions that quickly made me see how much I still had to learn. Since then many things have changed, but I try to continue to cultivate humility, since the only thing we constantly do is to learn and try to do our best.

Can Xomeu Sord - one of Marià Castelló's projects
Can Xomeu Sord – Marià Castelló

What makes Marià Castelló studio different from other architectural firms?

I could not say what makes us different, but there are some parameters that characterize us. We are a small-format studio, quite handmade and in which we deal with few projects but in depth. From the territorial component to the detail. We understand the profession in a holistic way and we tend to dilute the boundaries between architecture – interior design – object. We like to explore also get carried away during the process.

“I believe that intervening in heritage is a very didactic exercise. It involves first of all to know how to listen, but also developing a lot of sensitivity and the ability to contain”

Marià Castelló

If we talk about your projects, what makes them recognizable and different?

I don’t think I’m the best person to make that assessment, but perhaps the reflection on landscape and pre-existences are constants in our work.

Tell us a little more about the heritage intervention side of your work.

I believe that intervening in heritage is a very didactic exercise. It implies first of all to know how to listen, but also to develop a lot of sensitivity and the ability to contain. Although it is always a challenge, having collaborated in these interventions has always been very enriching. I would highlight the interventions carried out in the Fossar Vell and the Torre des Pi des Català.

Fossar Vell is one of the interventions that Marià Castelló highlights about his work.
Fossar Vell – Marià Castelló

What do you value most when deciding on one project or another? Have you ever said no to private projects?

The personality and values of the client or of the partner in the case of public works. Also the kind of project and the location, but I think it is essential that there is an alignment of criteria in the objectives pursued. Otherwise, everything is too complicated and exhausting. On different occasions we have declined private projects, but also some public projects in which we did not believe.

What would be the biggest challenge you would like to face professionally?

I would like to have the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of design. We have done a few projects of this type and it is an attractive format to combine with our daily practice.

“I would be in favor of a political approach that would support the cessation of urban growth in Formentera. It would be a turning point that might seem radical now but that in a few years now would be seen natural and unquestionable”

Marià Castelló

Which of the studio’s projects would you highlight and why?

I think the intervention in the Fossar Vell de Sant Francesc marked a turning point in the studio. It shows a certain degree of maturity that allowed us to achieve many things with very little.

The façade of Can Xomeu Rita
Can Xomeu Rita – Marià Castelló

Pros and cons of having the headquarters in Formentera. As it is an island it may seem that the work is very limited. Would you agree that it would not be possible to build any more?

For both Lorena, my co-worker, and myself, the intrinsic qualities of Formentera’s isolation are the determining factors in living and working here. It is also a challenge, as we believe that our efforts can help guide the model of island and territory in which we believe.

I think the main advantage is that it has allowed us to explore many different aspects of the profession and to specialize a little. The main disadvantage is that the physical isolation makes it difficult to collaborate easily with teaching projects and other face-to-face events. Without going any further, this term I have been a guest professor at the School of Architecture of the University of Navarra and my ability to attend in person has been very restricted not only by the uniqueness of the health situation, but also by how complicated it is to travel in winter between Formentera and Pamplona.

And yes, I would be in favor of a political approach that would support the cessation of urban growth in Formentera. It would be a turning point that might seem radical now but that in a few years would be seen natural and unquestionable. In that new panorama, the whole society and, of course, architects, would have the challenge of transforming and improving everything that has been done in haste and without much reflection during the decades of hasty development. A real opportunity.

“Having our headquarters in Formentera is a challenge as well, as we believe that our efforts can help guide the model of island and territory we believe in”

Marià Castelló

How do you work on projects outside Formentera?

There have not been many because insularity makes it difficult to maintain a close link with the work, but when we have done so, we have been accompanied by colleagues who work close to the site and share our enthusiasm and pleasure for a well done job.

A project in Ibiza by Marià Castelló
Ca l’Amo – Ibiza – Marià Castelló

Who are your references?

Many, but to mention a few: H Arquitectes, Carles Enrich, Josep Ferrando, Elías Torres and José Antonio Martínez la Peña, Ted’A, BAST….

If you could award a single architectural project (any one), what would it be?

You will tell me that I’m going off on a tangent, but I would reward “Na Blanca d’en Mestre” (it is the most developed fig tree of Formentera, with more than a century of life, about 350 m2 of occupation and about 143 pillars). It is an organic-artificial hypostyle hall where nature and architecture shake hands. An example of popular architecture, of architecture without architects, of prototype perfected generation after generation. I highlight “Na Blanca d’en Mestre” for being the most important, but in general it would be about rewarding the way of “building fig trees” in Formentera.

Na Blanca d’en Mestre (Foto-Collage Nadir) – Formentera – Marià Castelló

A book, a film and an essential reference in architecture

The Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Botton (2006)

The Fountainhead – King Vidor (1949)

I think the referent should be the place (each place), with its climate, culture, history, etc…