Architecture that influences the perceivers 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, syncretism implies an amalgamation of different schools of thought. To elaborate further on its relation to an Architect’s works and their influence on a generation, one can highlight the fluid and adaptable nature of humanity and the tendency for highly valuable cultural moments to arise out of interactions; this usually leads to new identities being forged. 

“Art is a tool by which society extends its perception”, said Arne Glimcher (Laster, 2010), an American art dealer. This expression may also extend to Architecture and may date as far back as the Post-modernism movement that might be revived in the 21st century for its eye-grabbing and emotive quality. 

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Architect Ricardo Bofill and his works _ © Author

Ricardo Bofill, a Spanish architect who designed across various scales and typologies, took inspiration for his atypical monolithic and geometric structures from the fundamentals of Spanish vernacular architecture. His muses led him to radicalize the idea of color and volume of the built during the 20th century and in turn, his work reinvented itself in the 21st century in the eyes of Generation Z. 

Influences may be direct, indirect, conscious decisions, or subconsciously embedded traces that materialize in reality. One needs to just make observations and document said visions to ruminate over the subtext of revived trends and modern-day ideals of entertainment, art, and culture that take their roots from the past.

Ricardo Bofill’s geometrical explorations and poetic language of curating spaces might have inspired many new-age games, cinematic endeavors, and rules of aesthetics. 

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Mapping out the inspired facets of Bofill’s architecture _ © Author

New-Age Gaming

Games and toys are invigorating vocations for children and adults alike. It allows the young to see possibilities and fantasize about their ideals. LEGO blocks began manufacturing in the middle of the 20th century alongside Architect Ricardo Bofill’s earlier works. 

Seemingly disconnected, LEGO produced its first Plastic brick in 1949, and it has since evolved into a playtime necessity that fosters creativity and innovation. Similar to the complex structure ideated and realized by Architect Ricardo Bofill in his designs of Kastel de Kafka and Xanadu, LEGO also teaches its users about structural engineering, encouraging them to think beyond conventional boundaries. 

In the 21st Century, kids and young adults manipulate, assemble, and disassemble colorful blocks, exploring various combinations and designs. Sense of spatial awareness and motor skills, alongside imagination and critical problem-solving skills, are promoted by the use of these LEGO Blocks. 

With the revival of interest in Ricardo Bofill’s architectural marvels, LEGO Blocks are also used as prototypical modules to explore the geometry and volumetric arrangement of his works on a small scale, luring young architects and Generation Z to try their hand at modeling after Bofill’s architectural marvels, exploring new possibilities. Bofill’s works are real-life fantastical structures of the LEGO world, where he designed monumental edifices defying architectural norms, and blurred the lines of practical and idealistic. The syncretism between modern-day teenagers and young designers considering Bofill’s works as muses and Bofill’s marvels resembling real-life manipulations of LEGO blocks go hand-in-hand. They encourage individuals of all ages to dream large and push the boundaries of possibilities. 

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LEGO Blocks and Bofill’s architecture _ © Author

Monument Valley, a recently developed mobile app puzzle game, has garnered global acclaim for its surreal and visually stunning graphics, which also happen to bear a resemblance and atmospheric similarity to the architectural works of Ricardo Bofill, particularly La Muralla Roja. The game’s aesthetics, which is characterized by the Escher-esque optical illusions that resolve the puzzle, geometric shapes, volumes, and vibrant colors evoke spatial ambiguity and surrealism reminiscent of Bofill’s sculptural buildings. The indulging aesthetics of La Muralla Roja, with the bold geometric forms, energizing hues, and intricate sciography of the spaces share a familiar visual language with Monument Valley, which might suggest a subconscious influence in the game’s art and concept direction. 

The game is advertised for its eye-grabbing, calm engagement with the users, and its most striking parallel with Bofill’s architecture is also the same. Both the game and the architecture’s concept lie in the manipulation of spaces and the perception of it. The creators play with the viewers’ perception of depth, scale, and perspective in their field of vision, designing a captivating and immersive built and narrative. 

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Monument Valley and Bofill’s architecture _ © Author

Similar to players navigating the complex geometry and optical illusions, visitors of Bofill’s Masterpiece are invited to explore labyrinthine passages, multiple levels, staircases, and courtyards that almost defy any spatial logic. 

Monument Valley and Boffil’s architecture almost share a common sense of whimsy and fantasy. The game’s floating platforms, surreal backdrops, and looming structures echo the elements present in Bofill’s designs, where unexpected juxtapositions create a unique enchantment to the place. They transport viewers and visitors to otherworldly realms. 

The cultural motifs and richness in both the game and architecture show the syncretism of diverse patterns and cultural exchange shaping a new identity for the game through the architectural marvel, reflecting and celebrating a multicultural aesthetic that is resonant with the players of Generation Z. Here Ricardo Bofill’s vision of architecture as a cultural synthesis is realized. 

Influence in Cinema

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Staircase from Squid Games and La Muralla Roja _ © Squid Games / https://architizer.com/firms/ricardo-bofill-taller-de-arquitectura/

The infamous web series of Squid Games borrowed inspiration from many sources and one such iconic muse might be the specific staircase composition of La Muralla Roja designed by Ricardo Bofill. The scene showing the players walking through the maze-like staircases offers familiarity with Escher’s paradoxical illustrations and the staircase of the residential complex as seen in Bird-eye view. “Throughout the show, there is a stark contrast between the show’s playful architecture and its substantially more sinister gameplay. This jarring sensation serves to crank up the disquiet, both for the players and the show’s viewers,” said Paul Keskeys, analyzing the architecture of Squid Game (Keskeys). The colorful edifice of Bofill’s architecture offers a similar emotive experience for its perceiver. 

The staircase scene reflects order, discipline, and silent terror, while the canvas of the staircase itself reflects harmony and organized imbalance due to its composition. The reflection of such an enigmatic architecture that might have been inspired by reality sparked numerous discussions and analyses, drawing significant attention to La Muralla Roja’s distinct features. Gen Z youth, celebrities, Tik Tokers, and cinema enthusiasts reveled in this realization and surged the rate of tourism to Spain. The colors create a sense of disorientation and the staircase envelops visitors directionally, blurring reality with its illusion, just as the Squid games did. 

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Scene from Hunger Games and Les Espaces d’Abraxas _ © Hunger Games / https://www.wired.com/2015/11/designing-the-hunger-games/

Les Espaces d’Abraxas, the public housing project in Paris designed by Ricardo Bofill steals the limelight in Hunger Games. The scene is pivotal in the last film of the franchise where the protagonist Katniss and her team evade the enemies but inevitably get trapped in this Dystopian, looming enclave of housing units. Production designer Messina says, “My first thought wasn’t to use it for the ‘goo’ scene…But [director Francis Lawrence] saw this location and he was like, ‘Oh, it’s like they’re trapped.’” (Messina, 2015) He further goes on to say how the location of this prefabricated giant of a housing complex helped set the stage for the scene.

The housing complex possesses innate dystopian qualities characterized typically by its scale, monumentality, and materiality that comprises stone and cement prefabricated facades. This architectural marvel is a synthesis of the architect’s goal to embody a blend of classical forms with modernist principles. The disorientation, sense of confinement, and booby-trap-like layout inspired its inclusion into the film, which reigned supreme amongst the youth for its impressive cinematic quality. The sense of grandeur and power, and labyrinthine passages leading to an open space contribute to the antagonistic representation further. It serves the role of a metaphor highlighting social inequality, the disparity between the privileged and marginalized, and control. 

Architecture is often associated with positive, community-serving connotations; with definite ideas of “aesthetics” and “function”. Ricardo Bofill contradicts this notion with his works during the Postmodernist movement, often designing ambitious, socially relevant projects with alarmingly radical views on design aesthetics and the treatment of shadow / light influences through volumetric arrangement. This resulted in his designs being celebrated and revered for their surrealistic impression on the viewers, never fitting within one trend or era, but driving the vestibule of multicultural aesthetics among the young. 

Redefining Rules of Aesthetics

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Image of Project Pachuca Paints _ © Sofia Jaramillo

Ricardo Bofill’s designs have left an indelible mark on modern architecture, becoming a key influencer of not only the built environment but also various artistic movements of the era. Color blocking evolved in recent years and became embedded in various scales of designs, including townscapes. Bofill’s use of color and bold geometric form in iconoclastic projects like Walden 7, and La Muralla Roja may have served as a source of inspiration for modern-day color blocking seen in streetscapes, architecture, and graffiti. His vibrant hues of color palettes have since become synonymous with a playful and serene aesthetic of color blocking, juxtaposing contrasting colors to create a harmonious visual composition.

Bofill’s designs have been unconsciously syncretic in the resurgence of color blocking as a trend in recent years as Gen Z jumped on this bandwagon, imbibing this rule of aesthetic for their interior spaces, exterior facades, and across scales, finding limitless possibilities. Bofill’s architectural language is reinterpreted and reflected in the blocky street art and architectural facades. 

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Touristy photos taken at La Muralla Roja _ © Dimitar Karanikolov

The photographer Dimitar Karanikolov speaks of La Muralla Roja, “Think of it as a giant, postmodern inhabited sculpture…You can spend hours wandering around its numerous outdoor staircases, floors, terraces, and tunnels, with each step of the journey revealing a unique and surreal point of view, you’d wish to take a picture of.” (Karanikolov,2022)

The bold colors, geometric forms, and layered kinesthetics of his spaces have lured the imaginations of young Instagram users, who seek visually splendid content to share with their followers and the world. Projects like Walden 7, La Muralla Roja, Kastel de Kafka, etc have become foci for the new generation of photographers to gravitate toward, get inspired by, and channel their energy toward, including other creative endeavors like fashion and art. Bofill’s influence can be seen in the proliferation of Instagram accounts dedicated to architectural photography, showcasing beauty, and detailing through carefully curated content. His distinctive style became synonymous with the aspirational lifestyle of the decade, wherein travel and exploration are markers of sophistication among young adults. Architectural tourism found its peak amongst young Gen Z travelers who seek opportunities for immersive experiences and stunning photoshoot occasions. Bofill’s 20th-century visual language resonates with contemporary youth culture, drawing them toward his authentic and creative expression of life. 

Ricardo Bofill’s lasting influence

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Bofill in front of Walden 7_ © RBTA

To conclude, the syncretism between Ricardo Bofill and Gen Z proclaims the exchange of creativity, cultural influence, and transcending trends. Ricardo Bofill’s architectural designs resonate and inspire the new generation of artists, designers, photographers, and influencers alike who renewed their appreciation for bold colors, playfulness in perception, strong geometry, and immersive experiences. Through many social media platforms, Bofill’s works have become emblematic of Gen Z’s lifestyle and thirst for originality. This symbiotic relationship between architecture and youth culture emphasizes the impact of Bofill’s enduring legacy. 

References:

  • Laster, P. (2010, September 14) Pace Gallery 50th anniversary: Arne Glimcher https://www.thedailybeast.com/pace-gallery-50th-anniversary-arne-glimcher
  • Augustyn, A (2024) LEGO  [online]. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/LEGO  [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Barandy, K (2022) Who was Ricardo Bofill? designboom remembers his most iconic works  [online]. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/ricardo-bofill-collection-iconic-works-projects-01-14-2021/  [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Luxinmo (2023) La Muralla Roja, Calpe: Postmodern Architecture In The Mediterranean  [online]. Available at: https://www.luxinmo.com/blogs/muralla-roja-calpe#:~:text=The%20design%20of%20La%20Muralla%20Roja&text=The%20design%20of%20the%20building%27s,towards%20the%20different%20common%20spaces  [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Bauer, N. Monument Valley Design Analysis [online]. Available at: https://nabauer.com/monument-valley-design-analysis/#:~:text=Monument%20Valley%20is%20a%20simple,make%20the%20tale%20worth%20it [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Keskeys, P. The Architecture of Squid Game  [online]. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/stories/the-architecture-of-squid-game/  [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Watercutter, A. (2015) How the Hunger Games’ Designer Built Its Epic Dystopian World  [online]. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2015/11/designing-the-hunger-games/ [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Stevens, P. (2017) Tour Ricardo Bofill’s monumental postmodern housing complex near Paris. [online].  Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/ricardo-bofill-postmodern-housing-complex-paris-les-espaces-dabraxas-france-03-07-2017/ [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
  • Lusina, A. (2022) Mind-Bending Photos of the Building That Inspired the ‘Squid Game’ Set. [online].  Available at: https://petapixel.com/2022/06/30/mind-bending-photos-of-the-building-that-inspired-the-squid-game-set/#:~:text=The%20building%20is%20a%20postmodern,being%20by%20far%20his%20favorite  [Accessed date: 08/04/2024].
Author

Varssni Karthick is an architect, writer, and artist treading the lines between the real and imagined worlds. She is an aspiring urban designer keen on bridging the chasm of inaccessibility between users and the design of the collective realm. Besides escaping into novels and perfecting song covers, people-watching is her preferred way to unwind.