© Nicholas Schmidt Studio, 2024

“Memory Future”

Originally published in Sporty and Rich Issue No. 3, 2018.

    Ricardo Bofill
Born in 1939 in Spain, Ricardo Bofill entered the architectural world just after the Modernist period. While modernism rejected embellishment, focusing exclusively on functional and minimal designs, Bofill created a new world. He merged traditional architectural styles with the minimalist treatments and efficiencies that are associated with modernism. This unique effort of modern classicism provides Bofill the ability to design in harmony with both contemporary and traditional characteristics.
    In 1963 Bofill founded the Taller de Arquitectura, a multidisciplinary architectural design firm consisting of architects, writers, philosophers, and sociologists. He introduced Memory-Future, a philosophy that strives to capture the balance between past and present, retrospect and prospect, and modern and historic. In Bofill’s eyes, design can remain minimal, modern, and functional while also incorporating the expressiveness that accompanies ornament and tradition. For projects like the Meritxell Sanctuary he preserves traditional elements like repeated arches and unites them with large open spaces and walls of windows. Bofill strives for design that draws on the imagery of the past while taking advantage of modern building technology and materials.
    Bofill purchased La Fabrica in 1973, a 5000 square meter abandoned factory in a small town just outside of Barcelona. He transformed the property into his headquarters, removing all excess walls and old machines. The goal of the demolition was create new relationships between each room and to reimagine the purpose of the space without altering the original design. He started planting ivy and rooftop oases to contrast the building’s hard concrete. He wanted to create an illusion of an abandoned ruin with vegetation blurring the lines between the natural world and the artificial one. Old silos became libraries and offices, the factory hall became a grand exhibition room, and the upper part of the factory became Bofill’s personal home. The space is a perfect balance between a brutalist vision and a romantic one. The factory has become a perfect embodiment for Bofill’s philosophy: integrating historical dimension within a contemporary project.

    Apart from La Fabrica, Bofill and his team have embarked on various groundbreaking projects. In 1975, he created a subsidized housing complex known as Walden 7. Imagined to provide a solution to the lack of community and interaction in many cities, Walden 7 is a 14 story utopian structure. Containing 18 grouped towers, wrapped around 5 different courtyards, it provides a sense of tranquility and community often stripped from urban spaces. Shortly after Walden 7’s completion, Bofill began to redefine Antigone District of Montpellier, France. Completed in 1999, the 90 acre projects connects an old town center with a nearby river. Inspired by Mediterranean antiquity, Bofill created six geometrically perfect plazas, a testament to his skill.

    More than fifty years after its conception, Bofill and Taller de Arquitectura have continued to maintain their prevalence in architecture designing buildings for Cartier, Parfums Christian Dior, hundreds more. Bofill combines the functionality of modernism and the ornament and tradition of classical designs to create a vehicle for culture to thrive. The human elements of expression and individuality that were missing during the time of Modernism are found throughout Bofill’s work and subsequently in our culture today. With over 1000 projects in over 40 countries, Ricardo Bofill has left his mark on architectural history.

© Nicholas Schmidt Studio, 2024