Why did you become an architect?
My mother and father are both architects and wished that I would become one as well. Naturally it was just very obvious to be against the idea per se. But somehow life is what happens to you, while you are busy making other plans. And there I was a young man in his 20s at the door front of BAUHAUS University. I realised that I have to find my own way to make the world not just better looking, but better functioning, supporting. Something that will have value for the next generations to come, so I found myself in the most traditional field of architecture, which is so based on how my fathers and grandfathers “have done”, that I feel quite a revolutionary, but well received I must admit.
What does it mean to you - wine architecture?
Wine architecture is my form of expression. My true signature, passion and job title I write on the business card. I do love and respect wine. I do love and respect architecture. I have academic knowledge for both of those fields, and a great interest to learn from the people who have run the wineries for ages. You can not just show up with disrespect and change the way things have been done. You have to listen and give people solutions for their problems or willingness to change. My job is to make it look authentic, real and, preferably, better.
How can you describe living away from the big city?
It makes you thirsty to have a diversified social life and everyday opportunities - just simply enjoying your favorite espresso at different places. Meanwhile it gives you the true value of our modern lives - time. Time to think, time to create, time to love your family and time to enjoy. It also literally gives you a wider horizon.
What is your design philosophy?
To be true to yourself, to the materials you use and the tasks you deal with. A designer, an architect is an artist with his own signature style, which has resonated with the client. That is the first step to be on the same wave.
To please the client, to hear his needs, his understanding of space is the second. It is always important to ask the client - what makes him feel good, what comforts him, what music he listens to or which wine he likes. Because you need to open up the person in front of you, to establish a trusting relationship. Those are the projects, the houses, the apartments, wineries and cellars which have a long lasting future.
Your favourite Piedmont wines?
I love Barolo, and I do love Barbaresco too. Shoot me, I cannot choose one. Ideally I like to have both at the same time - to compare, to play with the aromas and enjoy. I am a fan of the artisanal approach winemakers, indigos of the perfect system. Azienda Agricola Rivetto is my Barolo and Albino Rocca is my Barbaresco.
What inspires you?
My wife. She is so perfect. So caring, talented and beautiful. She also loves wine.
(*Martins Pilens is married to artist, set designer, photographer Santa Pilens who is the artistic director of STUDIO PILENS and My Wine Design.)
What is the most rewarding part of being an architect for you?
To see people being happy about the work you have done for them. To hear “Thank you, Mr. Architetto”. To see that your work has made their lives better. Well, it happens only if you perform better than you ever thought you could. On every project you have to do your maximum. The real value is to leave something behind that will last longer than Your own generation.
Would you be interested to work on a wine enthusiast private residence project in Italy?
Yes, of course. I have a very personal relationship with Italy - it is a beautiful country where I feel very welcome. I admire the combination of old and new, the ‘sprezzatura’ of Italian gentlemen from the city and the rough hard working farmers and winemakers in the countryside. At the end of the day they all end up in one bar having a glass of wine. And so is the architecture and interior - elegant and grand, at the same time greatly influenced by nature and the materials found in Italian homes - like terracotta tiles and marble table tops mixing with wooden and metal details. And the craftsmen I've worked together on projects in Italy are wonderful people. Each of them! I am always happy to return to Italy, even more when lifestyle can be combined with work.