“Known for fusing otherworldly architecture and lofty ideas, Bofill leaves behind a legacy of incredible buildings.” -Unknown

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Ar. Ricardo Bofill_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Knowing the One

Ricardo Bofill, the Spanish architect who dedicated his life to designing wild postmodern buildings, has died at age 82. One of the most influential architects and urbanists in the modern design world, Ricardo Bofill, stands at the forefront of creating practical city plans. Born in Barcelona in December 1939, the legendary architect began studying at an architecture school in his home city. One can read a Bofill building as if it were a piece of art, a carefully considered layering of form and colour married to a love of light and space. Long before becoming obsessive curators of our environments, Bofill was proposing architecture as something that served as a giant backdrop to our lives.

The Start of the Ultimo

Bofill founded studio Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, RBTA in 1963. Throughout Bofill’s nearly-60-year career, he would realize more than 1,000 completed projects and consistently drew praise for his monumentally scaled, heavily ornamented buildings. In 1973, he began work on the ongoing project of La Fabric — a renovated cement factory transformed into a studio, archive, home, library, and more. Shortly after this period, fleeing a highly pressured political climate in Spain, Bofill began practising in France, where his notable works include Spaces Abraxas, Les Hales. Architecture critic Catherine Slessor described him as the ‘undisputed imperator of the monumental’ whose ‘housing complexes became synonymous with dystopia, real and cinematic.’

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La Morella Roja, Alicante_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Bofill was built on a philosophical and aesthetic principle of Catalan Modernism throughout his career, and he brought together history, poetry, and vernacular Catalan design. He reflected his unique style in his vivid forms and geometries. With their solid and clustered volumes, his buildings often recall the traditional Kasbah — a high-walled, typically windowless fortress. As a result of his use of classical motifs, brutalism, and Catalan vernacular, this architect’s work is hard to categorize. Despite the diversity of his projects and their varying scales, he succeeded in leaping between them. The only goal of his work was to work at different scales with the architect’s wisdom and yet to know without veering into monumentalize without soul.

Recognizing Characteristics 

In the 1980s, Bofill defined Postmodernism as a style that used historical references as surface decoration. It also served him well during that period. In 1985, the Museum of Modern Art in New York exhibited his work, including color photographs of several housing developments in and around Paris. Les Arcades du Lac was a colossal version of a 17th-century French garden, with apartment buildings standing in for hedges. However, its influence was limited. 

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La Fabric Cement Factory_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura
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La Fabric Cement Factory_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

A Shining Example of Honor and Appreciation

In the 1990s and 2000s, Bofill devoted considerable effort to material research, focusing on experiments with glass and steel. The Congress Palace in Madrid, the United Airlines Headquarters and Citadel Centre in Chicago, and the W Hotel in Barcelona were all built during this period. In addition to his numerous awards received from prestigious institutions, Ricardo Bofill was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by Universitat Polytechnic de Catalunya (UPC), Spain, and LifeTime Achievement Award by Israel Building Center in 2009. In addition, he was an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Association of German Architects.

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Residential in Spain_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Art in a Person

Postmodernism was short-lived, and Ar. Bofill became more conventional in his work. Colorful and geometric, his works were bold and colorful. Bofill is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most important postmodernist architects. Due to its acceptance and popularity in the United States, Postmodernism duly became his style of expression in buildings. But as Postmodernism became ironic and vulgar, he grew uninterested in it. In Bofill’s architecture, he combines classical and contemporary styles. In many of his works, he employs columns, arches, and ornamented facades, backed by clean lines and bold structures that hint at something almost futuristic. To create memorable and unique buildings, Ricardo Bofill strikes a good balance between these styles.

City in the Space, Spain_©Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

In an unexpected twist in the 21st century, Ar. Bofill’s older buildings have found new fans. The HBO sci-fi series “Westworld” was filmed in part at La Fabric, and “Squid Game,” a Korean TV juggernaut, featured sets that looked like La Morella Roja. At the end of his career, those Bofill-buildings and others became familiar Instagram backdrops. Just like on a stage, Bofill’s best works inspire one to live one’s life as if it were a role, to be attuned to the continually changing dynamics of the environment influenced by the play of light and shadow, wall and window. 

It is true that he left behind an architectural legacy in the cities that were once his canvas!

References:

  1. Magazine, W. (2022). Remembering Ricardo Bofill (1939 – 2022). [online] Wallpaper*. Available at: https://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/remembering-ricardo-bofill-1939-2022-obituary
  2. World Architecture Community. (n.d.). Ricardo Bofill dies aged 82. [online] Available at: https://worldarchitecture.org/article-links/emevv/ricardo-bofill-dies-aged-82.html
  3. Another (2019). Ricardo Bofill’s Most Iconoclastic Designs, Explained. [online] AnOther. Available at: https://www.anothermag.com/design-living/11610/ricardo-bofill-architect-la-muralla-roja-walden-7-la-fabrica-espaces-xanadu.
  4. The Architect’s Newspaper. (2022). Postmodern Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill passes away at 82. [online] Available at: https://www.archpaper.com/2022/01/ricardo-bofill-passes-away-at-82/
  5. Bernstein, F.A. (2022). Ricardo Bofill, Architect of Otherworldly Buildings, Dies at 82. The New York Times. [online] 19 Jan. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/19/arts/design/ricardo-bofill-dead.html
  6. Dezeen. (2022). Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill dies aged 82. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2022/01/14/ricardo-bofill-dies-aged-82/
Author

Neha Lad, an Architect soon to be, adds a taste of design and creativity to the world of Architecture enhancing Nature as an added sweet dish, bringing unique flavor to the norms of Biology. She aspires to become an architect who depicts life in harmony with nature, where writing is her predominant mode of expression.

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