Ricardo Bofill was an architect, searching the world for possibilities. In 1973, he stumbled upon a dilapidated cement factory. The place had been out of use for decades and had fallen into disrepair. Yet, where most others would see an eyesore, Ricardo saw what it could become.
For the past 45 years, Ricardo has been steadily improving upon the building’s ample space by adding his unique flair. La Fábrica is the gorgeous culmination of the artist’s life’s work and is a true modern architectural wonder…
World War I Era
The original building, which was located just outside of Barcelona, was once a WWI-era concrete factory. The former pollution machine had actually closed down sometime after World War II and came with a laundry list of repairs. Ricardo’s team had a pretty hefty amount of work to complete before he could even begin to redesign it.
Working With WHAT?!
The building itself contained many features not commonly found in the modern home. Enormous silos, a tall smoke stack, four kilometers of underground tunnels, and machine rooms were just the beginning. All of the features were in fairly good shape overall, but many repairs still had to be made before Ricardo’s vision could come to life…
It was not without its flaws, however. The building’s edifice was cracked in places and many of the spaces within were not fit for human habitation: but that didn’t stop Ricardo Bofill. He was determined to create a lavish garden around the building’s perimeter and furnish the interior as a modern home and workspace. Years of partial deconstruction preceded all of his new repairs.
The destruction work was aided by the industrious use of dynamite and jackhammers. The work was not undertaken haphazardly, though. On the contrary, it was a precision job and was used to reveal the hidden forms in the building’s extant architecture and freeing up certain space. Soon, Ricardo would begin to sculpt the remnants into his ideal home…
Part of the problems existed because the silos were full of hardened, impossible-to-penetrate cement. Once they had cleared away all the dust and hammered through the cement, they began the process of greening the building’s ample exterior. The team created a green plinth that would allow plants climb to the rooftops, thus greening the entire factory.
The team decided to build their studio in one of the factory’s hollowed out silos. The space ended up being on four separate floors within the silo and connected by a spiral staircase. The highly functional layout of the floors encourages teamwork and yet provides enough space for individuals to concentrate and work creatively on their own as well. As for Ricardo’s personal office…
The entire silo studio is lit by natural light, flooding in from the beautiful view, overlooking the gardens. Ricardo Bofill’s office is situated on the first floor. It is a minimal space of about 4 meters from floor to ceiling but with pure white walls and carpet. The space is furnished with RBTA designs and vintage wicker Thonet chairs.
The underground passageways of the factory have become a mixture of underground galleries, each containing the model for the original workshop and all the archives. Many of the door and window elements are references to historical architecture and work in opposition to the industrial aesthetic of the building itself. Then, of course, there’s the cathedral room…
Ricardo wanted to renew and readapt the cement plant in a drastic way, as such, he wanted to use the space in a way that was not only uncommon but unexpected. The factory hall, with its enormous ceilings nearly 10 meters high, was transformed into a conference and exhibition room.
The slightly oxidized surfaces of the raw concrete walls were preserved as much as possible to maintain a sort of industrial undertone amidst all of Ricardo’s changes. The cathedral room, in particular, a strong visual remnant of the factory’s past furnished with modern leather furniture and a steel and glass coffee table. Outside, the plant has been overtaken by nature in a good way…
Once they had cleaned out all of the outside space and defined where they would put the green plinth, they began planting. The seeding of the plinth would allow for climbing plants to flourish on all sides of the building. These vines give the building the mysterious look of a romantic ruin.
Rich, Dense Foliage
The land on which the factory sits is largely covered with grass and bordered by groups of eucalyptus, palms, olive and prune trees, mimosas, and climbing plants that wrap the exposed concrete walls. All of this is part of Ricardo’s efforts to not let the building’s industrial past dictate his vision for his new home…
Ricardo Bofill has always considered himself positively cosmopolitan, so it seems odd that such a man would choose the dilapidated factory as his home and workplace. But 40 years of repairs and work have made him love what he’s created. The place itself has been enlarged and embellished over the course of his lifetime into his vision of a perfect home.
By Ricardo’s own admission: “The factory is a magic place which strange atmosphere is difficult to be perceived by a profane eye. I like the life to be perfectly programmed here, ritualized, in total contrast with my turbulent nomad life.” And upstairs the magic continues…
Ricardo Bofill has transformed the upper floors of the building into the main living room of his home. After removing all the dust and cement he turned the living room space into a perfect cube, framed by a sequence of arc windows. Many would consider the room both domestic and very conceptual in design.
The kitchen and dining room is located on the ground floor. It is a meeting point for Ricardo’s family and centers around a huge, white marble table supported on very industrial-looking iron work legs. He also added a two-sided fireplace between the spaces to give a sense of warmth to the large, probably chilly room. As for the overall decor of the place…
The Pink Room in the middle of the house features a traditional Moroccan wall finish. This smaller, more private living area isn’t like the cube living room on the second floor. It features a rectangular dining table made of a single piece of beautiful Alicante red marble and several black, leather sofas.
Many spaces of Ricardo’s amazing home have a surrealist tone that reflects his love of the unusual and the artistic. Nevertheless, Brofill’s vision never included useless spaces designed solely to confound his houseguests. He wanted to turn the factory into a useful but comfortable place and he has done just that…
The Cement Factory is a building with unique design and architectural elements create a space that is to be admired from every angle. From the clinging outside gardens to the repurposed cement silos, Ricardo Brofill’s understanding of natural light and the clever use of space has rendered something uninhabitable into a beautiful work of modern art and living environment.
Work in Progress
La Fábrica, as Brofill calls it, remains a work in progress to this day. With each passing year, the artist moves to different portions of the ample building and finds new ways to improve on the industrial design. The place is a beautiful and environmentally conscious symbol of the power of creative thinking.