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Jonathan Castro unlocks the possibilities at E Se Studios

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Jonathan Castro, of E Se Studios, formerly Cooper Gardner, in Albouy’s Park (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

As an architect Jonathan Castro is always saying to his clients “what if we do this …” or “what if we do that …”.

So when he decided to rebrand his firm, Cooper Gardner, earlier this year, he called it E Se Studios, “e se” being Portuguese for “what if”.

Mr Castro took over the firm in 2019, when his former employer, John Gardner, retired.

The new logo for E Se Studios (Photograph supplied)

“My last name is neither Cooper or Gardner,” Mr Castro said. “We made it work, but then I said let’s try this new experiment. E se was a way of thinking about possibilities.”

It is also a nod to his Portuguese heritage. His mother, Marie Castro, is second-generation Portuguese, and his father, Laureano Castro, is first generation and runs Castro Construction.

It was important to Mr Castro that he carry on Mr Gardner’s legacy, but he also wanted to put his own spin on things.

The rebranding has not been easy.

“We are still dealing with all the administrative tasks that come with changing the name,” he said. “It is a long list and it is not simple, but for our clients we wanted that continuity, so I am willing to grin and bear it.”

The pandemic erupted soon after Mr Castro took the reins of Cooper Gardner.

“Everything felt new, shiny, sparkly and then we got the indication that Covid-19 was going to be a real problem,” he said. “It was very stressful every second we had to remain inside. Unlike other professions, we are not able to be 100 per cent remote. We have to meet people, and being able to see properties is very important.”

Luckily, they had plenty of projects coming down the pipeline to keep them going.

“A lot of the early work on these projects was already taken care of, so we could just focus on designing and getting things approved,” he said.

Shortly before the pandemic the planning department set up an electronic system that made it possible to make all submissions online.

“That was a tremendous help when we were in lockdown,” Mr Castro said. “That was a large weight off our shoulders.”

During the pandemic, Mr Castro saw the nature of the work shift.

Cooper Gardner had become well known for large-scale commercial and residential projects, but suddenly people were not looking for that so much. People were spending more time working from home, and wanted to renovate their living space or add a home office.

Even before the pandemic they had scaled down their office at 14 Par-la-Ville Road in Hamilton.

“We were trying to be more nimble with a smaller team,” Mr Castro said. “We had to be very ingenious about what we were doing. We offered free consultations for an hour with the goal of making relationships with people who had never met us.”

Mr Castro started at the firm after graduating from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 2011. There were no jobs, so Mr Gardner took him on to do some unpaid work to gain experience.

“He took a chance on me,” Mr Castro said. “Then it slowly transitioned into me becoming indispensable in the office.”

He got his architectural qualifications through Cooper Gardner in 2017.

One of the projects he has worked on since then is designing a medallion for Albuoy’s Point Park in Hamilton to mark the northern point of the Bermuda Triangle.

“I designed that whole thing from scratch,” he said.

But he said the project was Mr Gardner’s baby.

The northern point of the Bermuda Triangle medallion at Albuoy’s Point designed by Jonathan Castro (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

“He wants to get the same medallion placed in Florida and Puerto Rico to mark the other points of the triangle,” Mr Castro said.

Mr Castro has also done work on the lobby space at Wessex House on Reid Street in Hamilton and at LOM, also on Reid Street.


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Published February 17, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated February 17, 2023 at 9:31 am)

Jonathan Castro unlocks the possibilities at E Se Studios

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