After discovering an industrial cement factory just outside Barcelona in 1973, Ricardo Bofill embarked on a transformative project that continues on to this day.
In the early 1970s, Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill was searching for a space to adapt into both a home for himself and his family as well as a spacious workshop for his firm. A somewhat ambitious project, as regulations in Barcelona at the time didn’t allow for dual residential/workspaces.
But, on a fateful day in 1973, Bofill spotted old brick chimneys poking out above the suburban greenery, and after speaking to the manager of a still-in-use cement factory that was only a month away from becoming disused, he purchased the property and the surrounding land and embarked on a life-long project.
First constructed in the 1920s, in Catalonia’s first era of industrialisation, the factory grew over time as new structures were added to keep up with demand as the years went on. Bofill’s own personal interest in the idea of half-finished work, the endless work in progress, has heavily informed his own continual transformation of the space.
Originally consisting of over 30 silos, subterranean spaces and enormous machine rooms, the contrasting architectural styles of the existing structures allowed for abundant creativity on Bofill and his team’s part. The original work upon buying the space took slightly over a year and a half, exposing the hidden beauty of the structures, after which the remaining structures were linked by landscaping and each space was assigned a new purpose.
A closed universe
After a rather nomadic early life, the last forty odd years of construction and adaptation of the structures and the grounds has resulted in somewhat of a compound that houses the architect’s firm and his family.
Today, the 31,000 square metre factory boasts a huge multipurpose space called The Cathedral, which is used for exhibitions, concerts and cultural functions, as well as offices, a model lab, archives, a library, a projections room and of course the family’s residential spaces. Surrounded by lush gardens of eucalyptus, palms, olive trees and cypresses, it’s no wonder the architect saw such far-reaching potential in the industrial settlement once in decay.
As the master architect said himself: “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.”