Margaret Castillo, who joined Helpern Architects in 1996 and was named a Principal of the firm in 2000, is the principal most often in charge of historic restoration and renovation projects. She thus lives a life intertwined with history, danger, and, at times, godliness.
The history part relates to the usually 19th-century, sometimes 20th-century properties that she has restored, frequently for a new use. These include the exotic 1887 Lockwood DeForrest home on East 10th Street, converted into the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Life for New York University; five historic homes owned by Yale University, notably the fine Skinner-Trowbridge House on Hillhouse Avenue that became the International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management; and several of the so-called “Carnegie Libraries” of the New York Public Library.
The danger part involves the need to go into extreme places to assess the condition of a structure. Prime among these are the double dome and related galleries of Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library, hardly seen in a century, and Yale’s fragile Davies Mansion, a dead ringer for the Addams Family’s house, now transformed into the high-functioning Betts House, home to the Center for Global Studies.
As for godliness, Margaret has created plans and designs historic Marble Collegiate Church and its sister congregation, the Fort Washington Congregational Church.
The 2011 President of the American Institute of Architects’ New York Chapter, she has become a force for sustainability in design and construction. A year of programs and training has galvanized the industry. She represents the city’s architects to the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability, and worked with the Mayor’s representatives and the NYC Department of Buildings to create a program to educate architects on sustainable building and PlaNYC’s goals. She also has been appointed to the New York Building Congress’ Higher Education Committee, which permits her three interests – buildings for education, preservation and sustainability – to come together.
Coverage of her advocacy and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Crain’s New York Business, and Real News, just as her work has appeared in professional publications from Architectural Record to Planning for Higher Education.
Margaret received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.