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Remembering Ricardo Bofill, the Master Misfit whose Utopian visions of architecture have never been more relevant than they are today

La-Muralla-Roja-2image © Matias Galeano aka Boluddha

La-Muralla-Roja-2image © Matias Galeano aka Boluddha

The Spanish architect died in January 2022 at the age of 82, leaving behind a grand legacy of era-defying buildings in an array of Psychedelic bold colours and forms befitting futuristic Sci-Fi films. With such a ‘trippy’ kaleidoscopic vision, it’s no surprise to learn that Bofill spent time in Ibiza during the 60s. 

A prophet of design and architecture, decades after their construction, his buildings provided the backdrop for many a movie. Such as The flamingo pink La Muralla Roja building in Calpe, Spain, came to inspire the Netflix series, The Squid Games, whilst the beautiful yet brutalist Les Espaces D’Abraxas, a high-density housing complex in Marne-la-Vallée, France, built in 1982, provided the backdrop for both Brazil and The Hunger Games.

 

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Ricardo Bofill

La Fabrica, Sant Just Desvern, Spain by Gregori Cireva

La Fabrica, Sant Just Desvern, Spain by Gregori Cireva

After being expelled from the Barcelona School of Architecture for his Marxist views under the gaze of Franco’s authoritarian regime, Bofill decided to set up a studio and home in an old cement factory. Creating the space in 1963 for a multi-disciplinary collective, he bought together poets, sociologists, philosophers, writers, and filmmakers named Taller de Arquitectura (the Architecture Workshop). He sought a radical approach that questioned the strict formality of traditional Western architecture. In an interview for Ssense, he said; 

“Breaking knowledge down into different disciplines and artistic spheres is useful for the purposes of specialisation, but the world is not compartmentalised in such a way. In order to understand society, and even art, one must break the frontier of the discipline, break the scheme of the category. Architecture was a discipline very cloistered in its own logic. I wanted to open it up and confront my projects with these alternative approaches.”

La-Muralla-Roja-image © Matias Galeano aka Boluddha

La-Muralla-Roja-image © Matias Galeano aka Boluddha

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His study of traditional and vernacular buildings took him on travels around the Mediterranean and North Africa. It’s incredible to know that Bofill’s first project was in Ibiza! He arrived in the 60s and worked on a house that came to be known as The Ibiza Home. His fascination with the construction using natural materials such as rocks, wood, and algae for the cube-like fincas’ we know and love fuelled his passion further. He found them aesthetically beautiful and socially sustainable, modelling many of his future social housing projects on their modular design formats. Ibiza also offered Bofill a sense of freedom, as he put it in his Ssense interview:

“…this period was also when Ibiza’s first parties began to be organised—the party as liberty, as the maximum expression of freedom, where everything was possible. There you would try everything for the first time. The first acid, the first drugs. There was this absolute sense of freedom, and from there all individual liberties were explored.”

Bofill’s connection to the Island made us at Heritage53 deliriously excited. His radical socialist thinking meets our Renegade spirit. Breaking down old school disciplines to create something so different was indeed a revolutionary act. Place that in context with his mission to build beautiful social housing, particularly Les Espcaes d’abraxas, which became known as the Versailles for the people; it becomes clear why we hold Bofill as an icon not just of architecture but of a way of living and being together. Emerging slowly from a two-year global pandemic, with social divisions rife, there are many lessons we can learn from Bofill. Living together in our myriad of identities and beliefs is a future we can all step colourfully and sustainably into. 

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