On the death of the architect Ricardo Bofill

RIcardo Bofill Leví was perhaps the most European, the most Mediterranean architect of his generation: born in Barcelona in 1939, the son of a Spanish entrepreneur and an Italian mother, he attended French high school and grew up not only with three Romance languages, but also with three different Mediterranean cultures. Perhaps it is the Italian experience of an architecture that is not projected into an empty space like classical modernism, but is built on fragments of old houses and uses the ruins as material for the future, which inspired his vision of the most spectacular modern ruins. in Barcelona sharpened.

In 1973, Bofill bought an abandoned cement plant in a suburb of Barcelona which included thirty silos. At the height of a technocratic modernism that is largely demolishing the old stock of cities, he converts the skeleton of the place where the basic material of this modernism was produced into his home, which must be read as a programmatic statement : it showed that living in the ruins of the present is not only possible but fascinating. Bofill removed concrete walls, dug skylights and arches into the former factory, glazed and planted until the building transformed into a bright and enchanting jungle – and this at a time when the word ” loft” was still unknown in Europe.

Later, the light-flooded silos also housed his office, which he called “Taller de Arquitectura”, an architectural studio, as if he saw his work more in repairs than thundering drawing board drawings in the empty landscape. The creeping nature of his ruined house was more reminiscent of the tumultuous forests of Fragonard than the indoor plants: Bofill does not idyllize, he does nothing more cozy, he enlarges the scale and thus achieves what Roland Barthes five years later in his famous ‘How to Live Together’ lecture as Magnificenza – like a size that does not have an overwhelming effect, but rather a euphoric, festive, sumptuous and liberating effect.

Another model today

Bofill shared Barthes’ interest in a 19th century French visionary who shaped Europe not only politically but also architecturally: Charles Fourier (1772 to 1837) not only coined the word feminism and the economic theories that significantly influenced the thought of Karl Marx, but also the “phalansterium”: According to Fourier, the workers should no longer live in seedy shacks in the future, but in a palace of 1600 inhabitants, reminiscent of Versailles, with a ballroom for parties and banquets, a library, schools and kindergartens; all citizens, even the poorest, should be able to live like the Sun King. The phalanstery marked the birth of social housing – except that in the 20th century everything that was important to Fourier, the festive and the sumptuous, was unfortunately suppressed for cost reasons.

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