Ricardo Bofill lived and studied in Barcelona, travelling throughout Spain and especially in Andalusia, where he discovered Spanish vernacular architecture. During the first years in the School of Architecture, like many students of the time, he began developing strong Marxist ideals. During a demonstration, he was arrested and expelled from the university and Spain. Bofill fled Barcelona in 1958 for Geneva, where he attended the Université de Beaux-Arts Genève to complete his education. He strongly disapproved Francoism, of which he contested and at the same time exploited the stillness and isolation to position himself as an intellectually disruptive figure.
In 1963, he formed a multidisciplinary team consisting of architects, engineers, planners, sociologists, writers, movie makers, and philosophers. Bofill revived the characteristic craftsmanship of traditional Catalan architecture. Later on, he began to deal with local urban-planning problems within the Spanish political and social level. The necessity to approach large-scale projects led Bofill's team to conceive a methodology based on the geometric formation of elements in space. Projects like Muralla Roja in 1973, in which the chromatic choices challenge the cliché of Mediterranean white, and Xanadu in 1971 can be seen as Ricardo Bofill's reaction against the modernist architectural tendencies and the politics of the time in Spain. Classical architecture offers the possibility of reconciling creation and variation since classicism does not impose a type of construction, but provides the principles necessary to invent new ones. (R. Bofill)
As a result of the economic crisis and the tense political situation in Spain, Ricardo began focusing elsewhere. In 1971, he formed a complementary team in Paris, in response to the demands of various projects for the French “New Towns”. During this phase, Bofill introduced in his proposals symbolic elements directly related to the French monumental architecture. La Petite Cathédrale and La Maison d’Abraxas are examples of these inhabited monuments. He reconfirms his postmodern character, which is now automatically attributed to him, and the elements he mostly uses: the form, the history, the large urban scale, an entirely new relationship between monumentality and dwelling. The concept of Bofill's scheme was “a monument within the city”, a green area with architectural character as per French tradition, a place in the heart of Paris where people could meet. The center of a city can be imagined as a baroque church: it is enough to transform the thickness of the walls into housing and interior spaces into streets and squares. (R. Bofill)
Bofill uses archetypes, such as the temple and the tower, as the attempt to give the object a historical location, a spatial perspective. Bofill's design studies for precast concrete units contributed in the 1980s, to the Taller's affirmation of the validity of classical forms and geometry in contemporary architecture. Today, Ricardo is seen as one of the founding European Postmodernists.
Here are some of his well known buildings-
The building was an abandoned concrete factory consisting of over 30 silos, subterranean galleries and machine rooms. Ricardo Bofill decided to transform it into the head office of “Taller de Arquitectura”. The factory, partially in ruins, had many surrealist elements: stairs that climbed up to nowhere, reinforced concrete structures that sustained nothing, huge empty spaces. The transformation process began with the demolition of part of the old structure; once the spaces had been defined, cleaned and enriched with vegetation, the preexisting was adapted to the new function. Eight silos became offices, a models laboratory, archives, a library and a projections room; one of them is known as "The Cathedral", used for exhibitions, concerts and many cultural functions. The complex is surrounded by eucalyptus, palms, olive trees and cypresses.
The housing structure embody Bofill's idea of providing public spaces and gardens for residents to enjoy an enhanced quality of living. The building consists of a fourteen blocks of apartments grouped around five courtyards; on top there are two swimming pools. Each apartment looks both the exterior and one of the interior courtyards. At several levels there is a system of bridges and balconies for access. The exterior facade has the appearance of a huge fortification completely painted in red, while the courtyards have intense blue, violet and yellow colored facade. The main courtyard, located at the building's entrance, is an extension of the street and the plaza for the use of the inhabitants. The most interesting aspect of the project is the atypical way in which the housing block is approached. Eighteen towers, seven courtyards, a modular but unsystematic grid, and extensive public space create a vertical labyrinth with no repetitiveness or uniformity.
La muralla roja
La Muralla Roja embodies a clear reference to the popular architectures of the Arab Mediterranean, in particular to the adobe towers of North Africa, and to a reinterpretation of the Mediterranean tradition of the casbah (fortress). Characterized by a series of interlocking stairs, platforms, and bridges, this organization is a modern illustration of the circulation in a typical casbah, providing access to the 50 apartments. The use of various different tones of paint provides different views of the building and contrast with nature, emerging from the rocky cliffs it sits on. Stairs and circulation surfaces, on the other hand, are treated with different tones of blue ranging from sky-blue to indigo and event violet, depending on weather the intention is to contrast with the sky or create visually continuity with it.
Xanadu Xanadú is an experimental prototype that reflects the idea of a garden city in space. The building began from the concept of the castle, evolving so that it arrived at a configuration inspired by the shape of the Peñon de Ifach nearby. The project is made of cubes, vernacular details (such as the windows) and curving roof elements combining modern principles with select traditional elements. Every unit is composed of three cubes, one for living space, another for sleeping space, and the third for services; all cubes are grouped around a vertical axis containing the stairs and the structural support. Openings and shaded terraces are determined by orientation, light necessity, ventilation systems, privacy, and connection points. The resulting spaces boast a beautiful quality of living.
Les espaces d’abraxas
The complex consists of Le Palacio, Le Théâtre and L’Arc, monumental and symbolic buildings that become meeting place and point of reference for the town, even though its impact on the urban landscape is not decisive. The project shows many historical references, such as the greek theatre, classical forms recalling French culture and the grandeur typical of the buildings of Boullée, Ledoux and Lequeu; the result is a post-modern eclectic architecture. With this representative character, the three buildings are laid out in a baroque space to constitute a great public space in which the monumentality provides the backdrop to the “noblest” area of the new residential development. By virtue of this, Les Espaces d’Abraxas have become the symbol and reference point for a large part of the Marne valley.
Article By Team Faber-