La Fábrica is the home of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill on the outskirts of Barcelona. The World War 1 era building was once a fully functioning cement factory – the oldest in Spain – before it was shut down due to concerns about the pollution it was causing to the local area.
Bofill, one of Spain’s most revered contemporary architects, remembers the factory as a child and dreaming of one day living and working there. In 1973, he decided to buy the derelict structure and grounds, and set about restructuring the buildings in order to create an all-inclusive live/work space that would unite the Surrealist, Abstract, and Brutalist elements found in its industrial form.
The conversion has taken place over more than four decades and was approached in four separate parts – Studio, Cathedral, Gardens and Residency. Bofill’s company studio is located in the former factory silos over four floors (his personal office is a minimalist space on the top floor with 4 meter ceiling height). The Cathedral is the name given to the former factory hall, which has been transformed into a conference and exhibition room (just 10 meter ceiling height here). The gardens are largely covered with grass and bordered by groups of eucalyptus, palms and mimosa trees. Climbing plants wrap the exposed concrete walls and give the building a mysterious feeling of romantic ruin. The residency adopts a minimalist approach with simple materials and mixes of domestic, monumental, brutal and conceptual.
The short film produced by Nowness does an excellent job of conveying the mind-blowing scale of the house as well as the calming tranquility it offers. Bofill narrates and generally comes across a bit of a dude. He talks a lot of sense, especially the comment that he doesn’t like the traditional appearance of luxury, he prefers to think of luxury as space and lifestyle.
Although I think it's fair to say the house is a bit of a one-off that few of us will ever emulate, the film is somehow hugely inspiring and highly recommended viewing if you haven't already seen it. Albert Moya who made the film comments “My entire crew was under the age of 30, and we all listened to Bofill wide-eyed. To see someone who is approaching 80 with such a modern and young mentality gave hope to all of us.”.
Watch it here.