Marià Castelló is an architect, the first architect from Formentera, he is young but he has been working on the island for ten years with numerous and innovative projects that have had a great impact on it.
He welcomes us with a broad smile in his studio-home on a particularly hot day at the beginning of August. We introduced ourselves with that island complicity, having met each other on a thousand occasions and greeted each other on many other occasions, although until now we had never met each other. He is on vacation, but he still very friendly agrees to chat with us for a while in the studio that we have seen so many times from the Camí Vell de la Mola, and that draws attention for the contrast of its design, winner of the “2006 First Feature” award from the Art Young Contest of the Balearic Government, with that of the houses that are around and that we are so accustomed to seeing in Formentera. He tells us that she would like to go sailing more, but that instead she is dedicating a good part of her free time to another of his great passions, photography.
The sun is beating down, it is almost noon and there is no shadow around, yet the temperature in the studio is pleasant and there is a light breeze. He explains to us that it is due to its north-south orientation without detriment to the east-west slope, which achieves cross ventilation that makes air conditioning unnecessary.
Marià confesses that although as a child he always said that he wanted to be an architect, it was not exactly a vocation, “since he did not say it consciously nor did he have any family member who was one”, gradually orienting himself, as he grew up, in that direction until finally study the degree in Barcelona. It was at that moment that he realized that the technical part did not cost him any effort, but that a career in architecture required developing other parts of himself. That was a personal and introspective challenge, and life in Barcelona, as one of the capitals of European design and its cultural and artistic universe, were the necessary stimulus to overcome it, to enrich and train as an architect in all its facets. “That’s why I think that if I had to decide on a favorite city, I would choose Barcelona, for everything it has given me.”
Despite graduating with honors in his final degree project and starting to work in important architecture studios in Barcelona for three years, “Formentera was always present, I knew that one day I had to return and I presented a project for a Center Cultural in Sant Francesc, which was very well received although in the end it was not carried out. It was the moment when I decided that I would rather be a mouse’s head than a lion’s tail indefinitely and I returned to Formentera… shortly after I was awarded the prize organized by the Col-legi d’Arquitectes de les Illes Balears, although others could have achieved it, since several very good projects were presented” he adds modestly.
For Marià, who recognizes his predilection for Portuguese architects such as Álvaro Siza, Souto de Moura, or the Aires Mateus brothers, architecture should reflect the moment in which one lives, and his studio is an example of this. “The country houses were not always as we see them now, they were always in constant evolution, each generation improved the errors or defects of the previous prototype. What is clear is that the environment determines the architecture and that certain concepts that are part of the culture of the place must be respected, but equally its natural evolution must not be cut off: an abstraction of traditional architecture must be allowed in accordance with our temporal reality.”
In this way we can see that its studio is not higher than the junipers that surround it, as happens in typical Formentera buildings, which integrates it perfectly into the environment. Likewise, the white color of its walls, its simple volumetry and the use of wood follow traditional parameters, but breaks with them, for example, thanks to the large glass windows that can be seen from the Camí Vell de la Mola, which They allow light to enter inside unlike what happened in the old homes, and due to the use of other materials such as steel that adapt to the entire construction, among other things. “Nowadays you should not build a home that pretends to be like the ones before, because the final result will not be credible, since the raw material is different and the technique is very different. We cannot fall into an artificial neo-ruralism, we cannot simulate a country house, nor use materials that appear to be what they are not and that make the result be made of cardboard.” He believes that it must be consistent with the times we live in and advocates for contemporary architecture that also allows materials to express themselves as they are.
“Avant-garde and tradition are not two antagonistic concepts,” Marià reflects, “we have proof of this when Raul Haussmann and the members of Gatepac arrived in Ibiza from Paris and Barcelona, and were surprised when they discovered that some of the postulates of the movement that they defended already existed previously: minimalism was already a singularity typical of popular architecture.” Another proof that what is traditional can often become contemporary is sustainability, as he tells us that a new social housing project in Sant Ferran will use posidonia on the roofs, just as it was done in the past, and the wools so typical of the island on the walls, both as insulating materials.
One of the best examples we have of the integration of the ancient and the modern is found in Marià Castelló’s project of signaling and restoration of the old parcels of Formentera called “Gràcies Reials”, which date back to the 17th century and were granted to Marc Ferrer and Antoni Blanc. “These are extensions of 4×4 and 2×2 square km, respectively, in Formentera, from which the first division of the island was made and which served as a starting point for other subdivisions among their descendants.” Marià shows us enthusiastically, enlarging an aerial photo of the island, how these are still easily visible in the long peasant walls extending parallel in the Migjorn area. These subdivisions are identifiable through the milestones that Marià has projected in Corten steel, whose surface oxidation creates a film that prevents the deterioration of the interior of the piece and gives it a striking orange-red color, and which fit the ancient stone walls. dry.
One of the best examples we have of the integration of the ancient and the modern is found in Marià Castelló’s project of signaling and restoration of the old parcels of Formentera called “Gràcies Reials”, which date back to the 17th century and were granted to Marc Ferrer and Antoni Blanc. “These are extensions of 4×4 and 2×2 square km, from which the first division of the island was made and which served as a starting point for other subdivisions among their descendants.” Marià shows us enthusiastically, enlarging an aerial photo of the island, how these are still easily visible in the long peasant walls extending parallel in the Migjorn area. These subdivisions are identifiable through the milestones that Marià has projected in Corten steel, whose surface oxidation creates a film that prevents the deterioration of the interior of the piece and gives it a striking orange-red color, and which fit the ancient stone walls. dry.
Marià warns us again that “there should not be a misinterpretation of popular architecture with different materials, but rather a reinterpretation of it without the obstacles that impede the development of contemporary architecture” and adds that “more attention should be paid to the final result.” of the works, in the same way that this is sought when projecting them.
You can barely hear a sound from his study, just the tireless song of the cicadas and the soft murmur of the wind. Sporadic cars pass along the Camí Vell de la Mola with the tiresome midday march. We are reaching the end of the interview and we do not want to end it without telling us about photography, which, as he previously pointed out, is his other great passion and of which he mainly recognizes himself as self-taught. Since he not only dedicates himself to it through his profession and the studies taught in the architecture degree “looking for orthogonal projections, always perpendicular to the building and seeking the general balance of the frame”, but he also dedicates himself to traveling around the island to take other types of images: “the light of Formentera is exceptional, it creates amazing contrasts, however, the time of day that I like the most are those twenty minutes that occur just after sunset, in which They capture movements better and what is photographed shows itself in another way, different, more suggestive, mysterious.” He highlights that one of his favorite places is the sandstone quarry of Punta Pedrera, “because it is one of the few architectural spaces modeled by subtraction and not by addition of matter”, and curiously, the building that impresses him the most on the island is “ Na Blanca d´en Mestre”:
It is a fig tree of 356 square meters and 143 “estalons” or wooden props that prevent the branches from taking root in the ground and serve to provide shelter for livestock, and of which he presented an abstraction in the form of a collage at the Institut d’Arquitectura Avançada de Catalunya, which serves as an example of “organic-artificial construction perfected over generations.”
We said goodbye to Marià, thanking her for the attention she had given us and we sat down with a smile for another chance meeting. We leave his studio happy, surprised by the new vision of the architecture of this island that we like so much, and that through this talk, little by little we will recognize the paths of Formentera.
(Photographs: Marià Castelló)