by AIA New York
Argentinean-born architect Pablo Castro, FAIA, co-founder of Obra Architects, practices the thoughtful pursuit of architecture as a cultural project with a broad social agenda—in New York City, Beijing, and Seoul. His deep commitment and constant search for a positive design contribution is disseminated via recognized notable work, lectures, and exhibitions worldwide. Castro’s OBRA Architects has garnered six AIANY Design Awards, a 2008 ID Annual Design Review Award, two 2004 Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, and the 2014 Kim Swoo Geun Preview Prize. He is a 2012 Rome Prize Fellow, 2006 NYFA Fellow, 2003 SAH de Mont.quin Senior Fellow, Emerging Voice of the Architectural League of NY, and 2006 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program winner.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Castro to its prestigious College of Fellows in the first category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession,” according to the organizations’s definition. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Castro was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and was honored further last week at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.
Q: What is your proudest achievement, as an architect, or your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: Perhaps I could mention the successful completion of OBRA’s largest executed project so far, the SanHe Kindergarten in Beijing—we are proud of its completion. It is also true that, because of the unjustified optimism that generally afflicts the typical architect’s disposition, I always seem to be proudest of the most recent things going on. The latest designs or ideas, the latest mini-breakthroughs in understanding reality that allow you to interpret it better (or plot to try to change it) are always the most satisfying things. I was also happy with the recent publication of our latest monograph OBRA architects LOGIC.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: I remember being 9 or 10 and visiting my grandparents’ house. On the living room floor there was a gigantic model of a city. It was a clay model with a silky reddish texture I can still recall vividly; it belonged to my uncle who was at the time an architecture student and had been working there preparing for some school review, maybe. That seems to have caused a big impression on me. In the end, my uncle became a rather talented architect, and years later, went on to design a house for my parents. In that house I spent my early formative years.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: Our clients, our staff, my partner, my reading and cities, above all New York, but also Seoul, Rome, Buenos Aires, Berlin… My friends are also an important source of inspiration and stimulus, particularly my architect friends, but generally I also try hard to separate my pencil from my love for them.
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
A: We are working on plans for a series of residential projects in the state of New Jersey. They are socially quite interesting: not only do they include a fair number of subsidized apartments and shops, but they also attempt to look into the future for new forms of undertaking the revitalization and development of cities. Our client is a rather inspired guy; he sees a storm coming in the fact that, the inevitable (and socially necessary) progress of AI might leave millions without access to gainful employment. These projects try to address that prospect and conceive of possible solutions. It’s a very exciting job.
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: It is a great honor, of course. I’m not so sure I deserve it. Are you sure some kind of mistake has not been made?
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 28 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2018, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.