Architect Ernesto Santalla Explores Many Mediums
Ernesto Santalla has been working in Washington since he graduated college in 1984. His design projects have taken him around the United States, Puerto Rico and France, and his creative interests have gone beyond design and into photography and blogging.
Studio Santalla is located at 1204 31st St., NW. Before he started the business in 2001, Santalla worked with other D.C.-based firms.
“When I was a what you call an architect in training, two years after I moved to Washington, I was working for what used to be called KressCox Associates PC (now known as Cox Graae + Spack), said Santalla. “It was the beginning of the downtown renaissance.”
With Christ Cox, Santalla worked on renovation the historic Colorado Building, located at 14th and G Streets.
“Because of the length of the project, I had the opportunity to work on the project from the beginning to the end,” said Santalla. “So, by the end of the project I had become a registered architect so that was the most amazing project I worked on for over three years. I got this whole gamut of exposure to construction, renovation, historic preservation and interiors. So it exposed me to many things.” \ Santalla has spent the majority of his career working in Georgetown. “It seems that three out of the four places I’ve worked in have been on this block,” said Santalla. The place I spent the most time was CGS architects. They were at 29th and M. And then I started my first business. Our office was at 15th and U. When I sold my interest in that company, I came and I started Studio Santalla in 2001. So, out of 28 years in DC, 22 have been in Georgetown.”
Beyond the world of design, Santalla has pursued different venues for creative expression. Why does he enjoy so many different things? “Because there are a lot of things in life to like,” said Santalla.
One outlet Santalla has incorporated into his business has been his photography. “I took a course when I was in college of black and white photography. That was in 1983. And so they taught us how to develop film and create prints. I took my class. I loved it. I learned a lot. I would always photograph when I was travelling in 1989. I went to Paris for a design program. When I came home from Paris with all my prints I put them in a closet.” Santalla’s Paris photos stayed there until Santalla moved in 1993. “I pulled out these photographs and said, ‘These are great photographs.’ I started to print them and show them and then after that I became fascinated with the size of the prints.”
Around the studio, Santalla’s photographs show street photography from Paris and other cities. He also has used the photographs in his clients’ homes, “without being too pushy,” he added.
Last August, Santalla began blogging while he was selling his apartment.
“I began blogging as an outlet to express what quality is about, he said. “Development doesn’t promote quality. Most developers aren’t focused on quality. They’re focused on the sale. The commercial residential real estate market seems to be driven by marketing, not by design. So, I make the case over and over again that you can live well with less. Georgetown is that, case in point. I’ve seen people that live in Georgetown that move away from the city core. And I’m thinking, ‘You don’t live any better. You just have more space.’ ”
Not to be limited in any area of expression, Santalla is excited about the possibilities the new year brings.
“Each year brings different challenges,” said Santalla. “We are looking into going into different areas. I am thinking about getting into development. I have different ideas about how development should be done. As Milton Berle said, ‘If a door doesn’t open, build a wall.’ So we’re looking at that. We’re looking teaming with a firm to produce some furniture and we are looking to produce textiles and leather goods.”