Design Icon: 8 Avant-Garde Buildings by Ricardo Bofill

Design Icon: 8 Avant-Garde Buildings by Ricardo Bofill

A new monograph by gestalten shines a light on the visionary works of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, whose bold forms often seem lifted from fantasy.

Born in Catalonia and raised by a family of builders, Ricardo Bofill began his architectural career at an early age, designing his first project—a summer home on the island of Ibiza—at 17. By the time he was 23, Bofill was the lead architect in the family business.

Architect Ricardo Bofill founded Taller de Arquitectura in 1963.

The extraordinary career of Ricardo Bofill now spans over 50 years, with over 1,000 buildings completed in more than 50 countries. His Barcelona–based firm, Taller de Arquitectura, is recognized for its tendency toward strong, geometric forms; an emphasis on craftsmanship; an emphasis on the importance of public spaces in urban environments; and an interest in local, vernacular styles and materials. Together, these elements go against the traditional views of Modernism in Europe—and have produced arresting results.

Ricardo Bofill: Visions of Architecture
Ricardo Bofill is one of the 20th century’s most unique architects and radical visionaries. His visions for urban and communal life challenged preconceived notions of shared space and proposed alternative styles of living.

A new monograph from gestalten celebrates the famed architect’s contributions to architecture. Below, we present eight works by the architect that capture his avant-garde approach.

Walden 7 (1975)

Walden 7 is one of Taller de Arquitectura’s pioneering housing projects, designed to address the problems of modern city living—in particular, how to balance communal spaces with privacy. Located just outside Barcelona, the complex features five interior courtyards and 446 residences spread across 18 towers of 14 stories each. The towers are modular, but they are arranged in an organic, unsystematic form and connected via communal spaces and bridges to create distinct identities.

Meritxell Sanctuary (1974)

Completed in 1974, the Meritxell Sanctuary in Andorra comprises an entire complex, including the remains of a medieval castle that was destroyed by a fire in 1972. Bofill's firm, inspired by the Romanesque design of the original chapel on the site, adapted the geometry and materials for new components.

La Muralla Roja (1973)

Near the port city of Alicante in Spain's Costa Blanca, Bofill designed a pink apartment block in the small town of Calp. Known for its beautiful beaches, the area became a popular tourist destination starting in the 1950s and ’60s, and La Muralla Roja was built to house 50 apartments on a cliff just five kilometers from the beach. With deep-set, narrow windows, strong geometric forms, and Mediterranean colors, the building is undeniably inspired by history but strictly modern in its minimalist ornamentation. The thick walls keep inner courtyards cool, and selectively placed windows keep out the strong Spanish sun.

Les Arcades & Les Temples du Lac (1982 & 1986)

In Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, Bofill designed this low-cost housing project in response to France's desperate need for more affordable housing during a harsh economic downturn. The scheme was executed in two phases between 1982 and 1986, and continued Bofill's interest in communal spaces and historic precedents: he used the formal gardens of the 17th century in France as inspiration of the project, whose two main sections are placed at either end of an artificial lake and follow a strict geometry. Each apartment has double exposures, allowing for views of the street on one side and an inner courtyard on the other.

La Fabrica (1975-present)

Starting in 1975, Bofill began transforming an abandoned 1920s Sansón Cement Factory, located 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. Bofill described the renovation as sculpting it "like a work of art," and the project is ever-ongoing: the complex is over 300,000 square feet, and consists of over 30 silos that had been full of concrete. Courtesy of Ricardo Bofill, copyright gestalten 2019

Les Espaces d'Abraxas (1982)

Also located outside of Paris and completed in the 1980s during France's affordable housing crisis, the public housing project in Marne-la-Vallee is arranged around a symmetrical composition of simple shapes with classically inspired detailing that has been reformulated. The project has three architectural units: Le Theatre (a semi-circular building shaped like a greek auditorium); L'Arc (a smaller archway that contains 20 dwellings), and Le Palacio (a larger building that contains 400 units). 

Xanadù (1971)

Bofill's vision for this apartment building in coastal Spain drew on the work of the avant-garde UK-based architectural collective Archigram; conceptually, each of the building's 18 units was "plugged" into the central structural frame, allowing the modular living units to form a range of different configurations. Unlike Bofill's other work in the area, this project was painted a mossy green that contrasted with the clay tile roofs.

Camp Nou Proposal (2015)

One of the firm's more recent projects was for a competition to revive Camp Nou, the stadium where Barcelona's renowned soccer team, Futbol Club Barcelona (colloquially known as Barça), plays. The Taller's shortlisted design added a new skin to the building made out of ribbons in the team's home colors. 


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