Once an abandoned cement factory in the outskirts of Barcelona, La Fábrica is now considered an architectural masterpiece. The man behind this remarkable restoration is architect Ricardo Bofill, and its history can be traced back to post-war times. Back in 1973, Bofill began his two-year journey to create a building that he would later use as both a home and what would also become the head office for Taller de Arquitectura.
In a former life, the building served as one of the oldest cement factories in Spain. More precisely, it was built in the 1920s in response to the country’s industrialization era. And, although the initial structure was different, La Fábrica was gradually developing to meet the needs of the country and, therefore, holds historical importance. In total, the structure spreads across 31,000 square meters, 5,000 of which Bofill used as his private home.
With a passion for ruins and cavernous spaces, Bofill reimagined this industrial complex and gave it a whole new experience. As such, the factory’s walls were redesigned and restructured to fit the architect’s non-traditional idea of a home and office. Drawing from the initial purpose of the factory — where nothing was left unused — the architect utilized every available space to accommodate his vision of an unconventional house in which all of its inhabitants could have their own private lives. In that sense, Bofill’s creation follows psychological activities, rather than resembling a traditional household. And, like the architect himself mentions, the building supports various different feelings and moods, further enforcing the idea of individualism and privacy.
For instance, to replicate a graceful and grandiose atmosphere — while keeping a distance from the idea of luxury or bourgeoisie — the architect incorporated minimalism as his standard visual approach. Simple materials helped him achieve a modern, yet classic look in which art meets human needs. In his words, the space was intended to convey a brutalist approach. However, elements of romanticism can also be noted and are primarily used for aesthetic composition and to support the architect’s love for artistic contradiction.
In its entirety, the building comprises Bofill’s appreciation for beauty and intelligence, as evidenced by his use of space. In particular, the rooms are simple, while also blending classic motifs with just enough details to make one feel calm and at home. What’s more, the old factory walls were kept tall — although they were restructured — to give the feeling of being in a cathedral. The same grandiose theme can also be seen in the green spaces, which were specifically decorated with statues to present a sacred impression.
In its short episode of In Residence, Nowness offers a window into the architect’s mind. It presents him in his own dual space — his home and office, as well as his brutalism and romanticism — and provides snapshots of this cavernous masterpiece to create a deep atmosphere that best describes the feeling one gets by simply being between the walls. Moreover, filmmaker Albert Maya and his team managed to translate Bofill’s vision by gracefully capturing long-lasting shots of the architect’s creation in a way that displays his love for living in the future.
Ricardo Bofill’s creation goes beyond the idea of a home. Instead, it is an example of alternative living and of consistency, as shown in the way his architectural skills reshaped and adapted the past. Or, as he said, “My life is always a project moving forward.”