A Spanish Architect Converts a Cement Factory Into a Breathtaking Home and Headquarters

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By Marissa Hermanson
With La Fábrica, architect Ricardo Bofill reimagines a ruin from Barcelona’s industrial age.

In the mid-1970s, architect Ricardo Bofill transformed the abandoned Sansón Cement Factory, which is five miles outside Barcelona in the village of Sant Just Desvern, into his home and the headquarters for his firm Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

The exterior of Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura's headquarters features rugged concrete and climbing greenery.

The exterior of Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura's headquarters features rugged concrete and climbing greenery.

"I found enormous silos, a tall smokestack, four kilometers of underground tunnels, and machine rooms in good shape," he says. "I already imagined future spaces and noticed that the different aesthetic and plastic tendencies that had developed since World War I were present in this factory." 

A lush espalier covers the concrete walls of the Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura headquarters.

A lush espalier covers the concrete walls of the Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura headquarters.

The cement factory was built in 1921 during the city’s industrialization period; over the years, the building expanded as cement production increased. 

The 53,820-square-foot building provided plenty of possibility for new, exciting spaces along with unusual barriers for Bofill to overcome. There were staircases leading nowhere, and the silos were filled with cement. 

The former cement factory's grounds were brought to life with Mediterranean plantings. 

The former cement factory's grounds were brought to life with Mediterranean plantings. 

"It was a precision job, which consisted in revealing the hidden forms and recovering certain spaces, comparable to the work of the sculptor whose first task is to confront the material," says Bofill. "Seduced by the contradictions and the ambiguity of the place, I decided to retain the factory and, modifying its original brutality, sculpt it like a work of art."

With its lofty ceilings, the cathedral is home to a conference and exhibition room. 

With its lofty ceilings, the cathedral is home to a conference and exhibition room. 

I decided to retain the factory and, modifying its original brutality, sculpt it like a work of art.

—Ricardo Bofill

The cathedral also is used for cultural events like concerts and lectures. 

The cathedral also is used for cultural events like concerts and lectures. 

The renovation lasted three years, beginning with demolition using jackhammers and dynamite. During the tear-down, distinct spaces came into view: the cathedral, the garden, the silos. 

The silos house four levels of offices with Bofill's office on the first floor.

The silos house four levels of offices with Bofill's office on the first floor.

The large cathedral is used for meetings, displaying projects, and hosting cultural events like concerts and lectures. The four floors in the silos are home to the firm’s offices, connected by a spiral staircase. 

Bofill's Home

In the living room, ethereal white curtains soften the severity of the concrete walls.

In the living room, ethereal white curtains soften the severity of the concrete walls.

Bofill’s home occupies 5,382 square feet of the factory with towering ceilings and oversized windows that welcome in an abundance of natural light. 

The voluminous living room has plenty of windows, letting in an abundance of natural light.

The voluminous living room has plenty of windows, letting in an abundance of natural light.

"It is for me the only place where I can concentrate, associate ideas in the most abstract manner, and finally, create projects, images and new spaces, and constitute a specific vocabulary for my architecture," says Bofill. "Life goes on here with very little difference between work and leisure." 

With Moroccan finished walls, the smaller living area provides space for more intimate and cozy gatherings.

With Moroccan finished walls, the smaller living area provides space for more intimate and cozy gatherings.

The kitchen and dining room are housed on the first floor of Bofill's abode.

The kitchen and dining room are housed on the first floor of Bofill's abode.

Outside, the garden is a lush oasis of Mediterranean plantings of cypress, olive, and eucalyptus trees. Vines climb the concrete walls, and verdant grass extends over the grounds. 

Exposed concrete walls and lush plantings create the feeling of a modern-day ruin.

Exposed concrete walls and lush plantings create the feeling of a modern-day ruin.

Architect Ricardo Bofill works on a project with his employees.

Architect Ricardo Bofill works on a project with his employees.

"Slowly, with the valuable help of Catalan craftsmen, the cement factory was transformed, but it will always remain as an unfinished work," he says. 


Project Credits:

Architect: Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Builder/general contractor: Emilio Bofill Benessat 

Structural engineer: Ricardo Bofill

Civil engineer: Ricardo Bofill

Landscape design: Ricardo Bofill

Lighting design: Ricardo Bofill

Interior design: Ricardo Bofill

Sound engineer: Ricardo Bofill

Cabinetry design: Ricardo Bofill