Rob Curley and Alfonso Bonilla are queer business owners based in Dublin. They founded Maremoto, an architecture and interior design studio, during the pandemic in March 2021.
Rob and Alfonso met in a workshop when they were both studying at the University of British Columbia. “We first locked eyes when Rob turned around to see who had the audacity to ask a question, as is the Irish fashion,” joked Alfonso. Rob was on exchange from UCD but when he went back to Ireland, the two spent the next six months writing letters, sending packages, and talking everyday.
While visiting Ireland for two weeks, Alfonso managed to transfer from UBC to the same masters programme as Rob in UCD. They have been inseparable since and even did a joint project for their masters which was completed in 2015.
They have continued working together since then, and even while working for different companies have supported each other through their careers. All of this has translated into making them ideal business partners.
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“We entered several architectural competitions, designed and produced sculptures together and generally helped each other out in our private and academic projects with feedback, making diagrams or even finding materials for each other’s work so we have a good sense of what each of us needs from the other when it comes to getting stuff done.”
They had been thinking about officially working together for a long time and the sudden global change that came with the pandemic made them more determined.
Rob and Alfonso were originally planning to take a leave of absence to visit family and friends in Mexico. “When flights and travel stopped in a drastic way, we realised this was an opportunity to innovate and perhaps re-imagine our plans.
“Ultimately, we realised we needed to see this as an opportunity to create a new target for ourselves. Maremoto is the result of this type of problem-solving strategy where problems become opportunities to innovate.”
Owning a business in Dublin comes with its challenges, especially when it’s a queer business, but Rob and Alfonso have found that their “work and design methodology has been accepted with enthusiasm by clients and contractors alike which is exactly where we want to be as a young architecture practice.
“The highlight for us has been to see first hand the enthusiasm of our clients, their family and friends when they experience the completed work.”
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Through their work in architecture and making Dublin their home, Rob and Alfonso have become passionate about the housing crisis. “It is at the heart of how we see our role in the future of our built environment, both as architects and as active members of society.”
Today we see a housing shortage that is the result of a lack of supply of affordable homes for rent or purchase. They believe that there needs to be a significant rise in two- and three-bed apartments and houses, as well as a rapid departure from ‘Build-to-Rent’ schemes. This is a “concept created by institutional investors to capitalise on this shortage of housing.”
This results in “our built environment being treated first and foremost as an investment vehicle… The existence of these schemes simply caters to a swelling number of wealthy investors instead of being realistic solutions to community based housing and amenity needs.”
“Ultimately, the Build-to-Rent model in Ireland is extremely problematic and is one of the first and most urgent elements that seem to exacerbate the crisis. This can be changed rapidly by enforcing all BTR developments to have a minimum of 70% units for sale and all units to be built with the same standards by removing certain policies.
“We believe architects should be more involved in this conversation so that we can find solutions to endless housing crises that are informed by good, ethical design by expert professionals in the field such as architects and urbanists like ourselves.”
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