Ricardo Bofill and his studio, RBTA have spent the last 45 years renovating what is now known as La fábrica, a home and office located just outside of Barcelona—and the results are stunning.
When Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill stumbled upon an abandoned cement factory in 1973, he saw opportunity in the ruins. Bofill bought the early twentieth-century compound and, together with local Catalan craftsmen, transformed the sprawling structure of silos and compounds into an incredible fairytale home that blends surrealism, brutalism, and modernism. Located in Catalonia, Spain, the renovation is remarkable – not only for its stunning appearance, but also for the architect’s ongoing ambition to make the concrete fortress into a surprisingly livable home and studio.
The transformation process began with the demolition of part of the old structure to leave hitherto concealed forms visible, as if the concrete had been sculpted. Once the spaces had been defined, cleaned of cement and encompassed by new greenery, the process began of adaptation to the new programme. Eight silos remained, which became offices, a models laboratory, archives, a library, a projections room and a gigantic space known as “The Cathedral”, used for exhibitions, concerts and a whole range of cultural functions linked to the professional activities of the architect. The complex stands in the midst of gardens with eucalyptus, palms, olive trees and cypresses. This project is evidence of the fact that an imaginative architect may adapt any space to a new function, no matter how different it may be from the original one.
Bofill explained on his website that “the different visual and aesthetics trends that had developed since World War I coexisted” in the abandoned factory, represented in the surrealist stairs, absurd elements, weird yet magical proportions, abstracted volumes, and brutal surface materials. As a result of this perception, the architect and his team decided to purchase and revamp the old factory, turning it into Bofill’s home and the team’s studio.
After 45 years of refurbishment, ‘La fábrica’ came to be. Its roof and surroundings were entirely covered in lush vegetation. The different parts of the factory kept their original form and architectural style while hosting different functions. Some of the interior walls were demolished to attain an open space which can function as a design studio. The factory’s huge openings were maintained, providing the spacious interior with the desired amount of natural light.
“Presently I live and work here better than anywhere else. It is for me the only place where I can concentrate and associate ideas in the most abstract manner. I have the impression of living in a precinct, in a closed universe which protects me from the outside and everyday life,” says Ricardo Bofill about La fábrica. “The Cement Factory is a place of work par excellence. Life goes on here in a continuous sequence, with very little difference between work and leisure. I have the impression of living in the same environment that propelled the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia.”