Natives of Auroville, Pondicherry, Pino Marchese and Sheril Castelino are two eco-warriors that jointly run the firm of Castelino & Marchese. Involved in a wide array of projects that straddle architecture, interior design and landscape design, the architect duo sees to it that their practice stays rooted to their recurring theme of simple, rational and sustainable design.
Sheril Castelino graduated in architecture from the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, Mumbai, in the year 1997. She has worked in both Mumbai and Italy in the past. Her work experience encompasses projects based on architecture, interior design, product design and landscape design. She was also involved with research on the ‘Lost Temples of Khajuraho’ and has participated in several architecture and design related competitions.
Straying a little away from her mainstream profession, she added diversity to her profile by studying Italian Cinema and Literature at L’Universita Per Stranieri, Perugia-Italy. Subsequently she made her way to Auroville in pursuit of an architecture and landscape design practice. She was honoured with the Commendation Award for State Architect of the Year in the year 2008 (for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry)
Pino Marchese, graduated in architecture from the University of Florence, Italy in the year 1990. He practised pottery at the “Antica Fornace Di Bacchereto’ in Vinci-Tuscany from 1982 to 1984. After having worked for eight years in various studios of architecture in Italy, involved in a wide array of residential and public architectural projects, he moved to Auroville in the year 1998 where he works in conjunction with Sheril Castelino in the firm Castelino & Marchese to date. Apart from architecture, landscape and interior designing, photography is one more thing that occupies Pino professionally.
We took some time out with Castelino & Marchese to chat about eco-friendliness, their firm’s ethos and a touch of philosophy…
What was the genesis of Castelino & Marchese and what is the thinking that underscores its work?
Our similar viewpoints and ideologies brought us together 15 years ago and we started an architectural and landscape design practice in Auroville, Pondicherry. We both endeavour to make houses that are not only energy efficient but also easy to maintain such that they have the lowest possible impact on the environment.
We don’t believe in blindly aping the West. We like to stop and think and respond to the location of a project in a way that it is light on the use of natural resources and energy. We aim at creating structures that will make the lives of its users more comfortable yet in the most eco-friendly way.
Why did you decide to stay here in Pondicherry as against moving on to a big cities?
On coming to Auroville we saw that there was a lot of research going on in different areas like food, farming and in the manufacturing of various products, where energy saving and compassion for the ecology were major considerations. Seeing that this place was not affected by the present day malaise of overuse of energy we felt at home and decided to make Auroville our base.
We see that here down in the South of India there is a lot of scope for good work. We find ourselves amidst people who are on the same wave length. Unlike the big metros where big architectural firms are constantly vying with each other to make each project showier and more iconic, without any real respect or care for the environment, in Pondicherry all the practising architects seem to share the same sensibility and sensitivity towards the surroundings.
Even though our base is Auroville our practice extends to projects in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu.
How much of your work is based on sustainable architecture?
You could say 100%. Our work is ego-less, we like to make timeless structures, those that are not bound by any style or trademark touch. Each of our projects is different. We like to respond to the natural aspects of the location and allow these to mould our work with just one principle in mind, to be as sustainable as possible. We carry on trying to better ourselves with each project and firmly believe that the best is yet to come.
Where do you think architecture in India is headed?
It is a mix. The market seems to dictate the architecture instead of the other way around, which should be the case if you really care for the environment.
We feel that to live sustainably it is not enough to have an eco-friendly house alone, lifestyles should also change along with the houses. These two should go hand in hand to truly arrive at a low energy and resource use life.
Are people (clients) these days ready to experiment with their personal spaces if it means being environment friendly and getting houses that are more energy efficient?
Yes, people are more aware these days than ever before and especially in the areas we practise in. But building green comes with a higher price which we appraise our clients of in the very beginning. They become prepared to spend that little extra because they know that what they pay now will accrue as returns in the form of low running costs down the years.
How do you manage to achieve business goals with your firm’s innate sustainable outlook?
We do not have high business goals in any case. We are happy doing fewer jobs, especially those which give us the satisfaction of having achieved something true to our own ethos. If we design green we also practise green in our daily lives. We like to go with the flow of the omnipresent philosophy of Auroville which is to be content with less and not be wasteful of our planet’s resources.