Thursday Salute to Originals: A Surreal Factory
This blog normally highlights the innovative proposals and accomplishment that propel our modern society. Sometimes though, a decades-old idea will still carry force not yet matched by current thought. This statement finds no more truth than the Barcelona home and offices of architect Ricardo Bofill. Nowadays, redesigning industrial buildings for commercial and residential use prevails in cities to the point of ubiquity. Designers adapt the practical constructs of engineers long gone and blend them with modern architectural concepts to produce unique buildings following a concept well established today. Few have surpassed Bofill’s project completed almost four decades ago.
A master of post-modernist architecture, Bofill came across a decrepit and abandoned turn-of-the-century cement factory in 1973. He found crumbling walls, destination-less stairs, disproportionate features in both massive and tiny rooms, thirty silos, huge subterranean spaces, and an abandoned, trash ridden yard all of which was in ruins. A two year project saw all but eight silos demolished, massive amounts of material removed, walls torn down to reveal interesting architecture, and immense landscaping work.
The renovated buildings became the nexus for his architectural business and life, housing offices, laboratories, guest rooms, gardens, a library, projection rooms, a concert hall called “The Cathedral”, and even Bofill’s own living quarters. The brutalist outside features a seamless convergence of old and new construction softened by the plethora of foliage framing the yard, climbing the walls, and shading the roofs. As the years pass, concrete and plants, such as ivy, cypress, palm, olive, and eucalyptus trees merge to give an almost Romantic feel.
Inside, Bofill maintained a minimalistic approach that emphasized the spaces’ previous and current functions without unnecessary clutter. Rooms make the use of eclectic flooring designs. Subtle decorations and furnishings, humongous curtains, wall-to-ceiling windows, meeting tables, beds, and even a piano coexist alongside raw concrete, aged and roughly hewn wooden beams, steel supports, and massive hoppers.
The Factory stands as an example to renovators, designers, and architects everywhere. Almost a self-contained community, Bofill has developed the buildings to suit both his personal and professional life. He once stated, “The factory is a magic place which strange atmosphere is difficult to be perceived by a profane eye. I like the life to be perfectly programmed here, ritualized, in total contrast with my turbulent nomad life.” And magic it certainly is.