Creativity lies in every one of us… we just have to be willing to harness and explore it. There is no truer embodiment of this statement than the man who saw the potentials in a dilapidated cement factory back in 1973 and turned it into a unique and spectacular home.
That man is Ricardo Bofill and that old crumbling cement factory is known today as La fábrica.
In this post, we would be talking about Ricardo Bofill and his purpose-driven transformation of La fabrica.
Located right outside Barcelona, this defunct factory had been a World War I era pollution machine which was closed down. When the visionary Ricardo Bofill purchased it, he and his team knew that it was a lot of work to take on at the time.
Following the purchase in 1973, it has taken years of partial deconstruction to recreate this old cement factory into a breathtaking home that has its beautiful exteriors laced with vegetation, and an interior that exemplifies modern living. But what La fabrica is today is nothing like what Ricardo Bofill met when he first saw it!
When Bofill and his team arrived at the location of the dying cement factory in 1973, they had found a tall smokestack, enormous silos, functional machine rooms, underground tunnels that spanned four kilometers and the kind of potential only a determined person would see.
The cement factory itself had an eclectic architecture seeing as it was not built as a whole or at the same time. The construction of the factory dates as far as the first period of Catalonia’s industrialization and continued to metamorphose by adding new infrastructure to cater to the new chains of production.
Where most would see dilapidation, Bofill saw future spaces and the potential to harness the different aesthetics and visual trends that had characterized this building over time.
Incomplete projects like paradoxical staircases to nowhere triggered the surrealistic genius in Bofill. What most people would consider an absurdity as certain elements within the factory hung over voids, not to mention huge but seemingly useless spaces of bizarre proportions, Bofill saw their disproportion and tension as magical.
The ambiguity and contradiction of this seemingly dying structure seduced Bofill and his team – they wanted this factory!
The goal was simple: Modify the factory’s original brutality and sculpt its infrastructure like a pure work of art.
Today, after years of hard work, perseverance, modification, and remodification, the result which is now called La fabrica is proof that function and form must be dissociated – especially with architecture. Just like the transformation of La fabrica, any space can be restructured and redesigned to serve whatever purpose the architect chooses.
The only catch is they just have to be sufficiently skillful. Check out how Homemagez’s remodeled an old tiny studio apartment into a luxury apartment as well as how much it cost to do it. The transformation is unreal… we promise.
According to Ricardo Bofill, La fabrica is the only place where he is able to concentrate and associate his ideas in the utmost abstract manner.
So how did Ricardo Bofill turn a crumbling edifice in the very environment that kick-started Catalonia’s Industrial Revolution into a breathtaking home?
Construction and Deconstruction
The deconstruction and reconstruction of La fabrica began with the team partially destroying the cement factory with dynamite and jackhammers. This process spanned as long as 18 months and required the utmost precision for the job to be executed just right. This process paid off as several hidden forms were revealed and certain spaces necessary to reshape the structure were recovered.
The silos on the site had cement in them, thus making it practically impossible to penetrate these spaces which were completely saturated with dust.
After the breaking down, blowing up and restructuring, Bofill and his team took to the greening and planting phase. This part of the process helped to provide a green plinth to the structure. Following the beautification of the structure with plants that would climb walls and drop in from the roofs, Bofill decided to annul the functionalism of the factory by adding new structures with different uses to the factory.
These new structures and spaces became visible and even got renamed with names that integrate a plethora of languages from architectural history. Now, in place of factory designs and workspaces, La fabrica features; The Studio, La Catedral, The Gardens, and The Residence.
The studio where Bofill and the team hatch ideas, is carefully tucked away in the factory silos and it looks very much like a witch’s pot with some 4 floors connected by a staircase. This erstwhile silo is now a highly functional floor layout which encourages teamwork amongst member while also providing the perfect environment for individual creativity and concentration.
Bofill’s office is on the first floor and is quite the minimalist space with just 4 meters ceiling height, carpet and pristine white walls – just about everything within Bofill’s office is furnished with RBTA designs with exception to the vintage chairs. Bofill’s workspace is a spacious and bright open floor plan illuminated with natural lighting and an amazing view of the gardens.
What is referred to, today, as La Catedral was once the factory hall. Following the adaptative renewal and creative reuse of the cement factory, this hall became an exhibition and conference room.
With a 10m floor to ceiling height, the conference room which has walls of slightly oxidized surfaces is quite generous in size. La Catedral still embodies the spatial quality and industrial aesthetics of the cement factory.
With spaces defined and cement cleaned out, the infusion of nature’s greenness was the inevitable next step.
The site which is mostly covered with grass is bordered by mimosas, palms, eucalyptus, olive tree as well as climbing plants that cover the exposed concrete walls. This provides the mysterious aspect of romantic ruin to the building thus making it quite unique and unrepeatable.
For more than 40 years, Ricardo Bofill has continued to enlarge and embellish La fabrica, turning it into what he defines as “a magic place which strange atmosphere is difficult to be perceived by a profane eye”.
The upper part in the factory sees Ricardo Bofill transform what was a once large volume of brute cement into what is now the main living room. This enormous room which Bofill describes as “Domestic, monumental, brutalist and conceptual is shaped like a perfect cube with arc windows.
The Bofill family would normally meet in the kitchen-dining room on the ground floor. Furniture placements in the middle of this room feature a rectangular white marble table sitting on ironwork legs, Thonet chairs, backrest and seat with wickerwork as well as two-sided fireplaces to offer a warm ambiance and charm to the room.
The middle floor of this home holds a cozy private area with a traditional Moroccan wall finish – this room is referred to as the “pink”. This room was designed by the team and has a large fireplace dominating the room.
La fábrica is still very much “work in progress” to this day. According to Ricardo Bofill, La fabrica is likened to his life and is an expression of his visions and as such would continue to change shape.
What used to be industrial chimneys that polluted the air with thick smoke is now overflowing with lush greenery.
La fabrica and its transformations are the perfect instances of the beauty that could come from creative thinking