Tag Archives: ANTONI GAUDI

TRIBUTE: RICARDO BOFILL (1939-2022) AND THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE FANTASTICAL

January 28, 2022

La Mazanera, Calpe, Alicante, Spain (photo from ricarobofill.com)

A titan amongst us architects has left this world: Ricardo Bofill. In the zeitgeist of art, design, and individualism, it feels as if Atlas finally shrugged.

In 1986 New York City (here and here) I, a young architect bravely stomping the granite cobblestones of SoHo streets, came across one of those suspicious card tables selling random artifacts. The seller and his temporary setting, appearing ready to pack up and run in an instant, had me wonder if his goods were stolen, fake, or both.

Les Espaces D’Abraxas, Marne-la-Valle, France (photo by Ricardo Bofill)

A large coffee table book, 12 inches square and one-inch thick, stood out from the scatter of tarnished jewelry, etched dishware, and stacks of art books, old postcard, and dog-leafed magazines. My eye caught, Ricardo Bofill: Taller De Arquitectura, published by the then-giant Rizzoli. I did not know this architect, yet I was drawn to the cover image of a fantastical project (pictured above). I negotiated with the seller a price that fit the few crumpled dollars I had in my big boy pants.

Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona, Spain (photo by Denis Esakov)

Back at my third-floor, walk-up, Chelsea studio, I devoured the architecture of Barcelona-born Ricardo Bofill—ambitious, utopian, revolutionary. Even controversial. Sometimes called dystopic. His global fame rose in the 70s and 80s with housing designs in France, several blocks large for neighborhoods like Marne-la-Valle. But much of his visionary creations in Spain preceded this recognition, and such earlier work established Bofill as an imaginary and puzzling thinker, akin to countryman, Antoni Gaudi.

El Parque de La Marca Hispanica, Le Perthus, Franco-Spanish border (photo by Ricardo Bofill)

His company name, Taller de Arquitectura, literally meant “architecture workshop.” This collaborative enclave of talent explored works of fantasy, concrete classicism, hyper Post-Modernism, organic forms, unprecedented sculptural forms and colors, and prefab concrete system construction—and did so beyond Spain and France, contributing to the urban fabric of the United States, Russia, India, Africa, and China.

Les Arcades du Lac, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France (photo by Gregori Civera)

Much like “The Factory,” a culture and workplace of Andy Warhol’s making, Taller de Arquitectura was a cross disciplinary atelier comprising skills beyond architects, interior designers, and contractors, to include psychiatrists, philosophers, mathematicians, and poets. Akin to the makeup of his personnel, Bofill’s influences were eclectic: Wright, Barragan, Kahn, Aalto, Archigram, Japanese Metabolists, as well as artists like de Chirico, Escher, and Magritte. These lists of design references, geography, various philosophies, alongside his 1,000 completed projects indicate a man beyond measure.

Interior of Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona, Spain (photo by Ricardo Bofill)

Bofill’s influence spanned across pop culture, films, TV shows, and video games, as his work is seen in movies such as The Hunger Games and in TV like Westworld and the recent Korean hit, Squid Game. In 1975, the President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, labeled Bofill, “the greatest architect in the world,” later embellishing, “the greatest architect since Michelangelo.”

The Sanctuary of Meritxell, Andorra (photo by Ricardo Bofill)

Few architects have established themselves as an artist with such heroic and audacious ideas—drawings that leap out from the pages of Bofill’s sketchbook into the context of major cities as iconic and colossal built work. His courage and creativity will be missed. Like his 30-silo cement factory turned headquarters and home, Ricard Bofill saw the world differently, shaped it to his will, and left monuments scattered around the globe for the rest of us to be humbled.

The adaptive reuse of an abandoned, turn-of-the-century, cement factory. La Fabrica, Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona, Spain
(photo from us.gestalten.com)

SIX ICONOCLASTS: MARCHING TO THEIR OWN DRUM

February 28, 2020

The Factory, Catalonia, Spain, by Ricardo Bofill (photo from thisiscolossal.com)

There are the Usual Suspects, and we all know who they are. Featured on our magazine covers, these architects take home the big-name awards, are invited to international competitions, and cash in on their prestigious commissions. Then there are those creative minds that march to their own drum, exploring ideas that resound privately in their head. Rarely in the zeitgeist of the mainstream, these architects flourish in bizarre ways and have tremendous influence.

Pavilion for Japanese Art, LACMA, Los Angeles, California, by Bruce Goff (photo from lacmaonfire.blogspot.com)

From Oklahoma to France, from California to Spain, from Alabama to New Mexico, these six artists did and do not follow the status quo. Instead, they sought solutions of ingenious personal expression— sometimes even unsettling forms and imagery.

left: Gryder House, Ocean Springs, Mississippi; right: Struckus House, Los Angeles, California, both by Bruce Goff (photos by Elena Dorfman)

BRUCE GOFF (1904 to 1983)
As I often enjoy doing with my design work, Goff too finds inspiration in music as well. He leans on Claude Debussy and Balinese music. He also happens to like seashells. Eclectic and unconventional, Goff’s work was sublimely organic—starkly original with never-before-seen forms and unusual materials. Regardless, a world-class institution like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art took a huge risk and scored big with hiring Goff.

Les Arcades et Les Temples du Lac, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, by Ricard Bofill (photo by Gregori Civera)
Kafka Castle, Sant Pere De Ribes, Spain, by Ricard Bofill (photo by Ricard Bofill)

RICARDO BOFILL (still in practice)
Bofill’s early works represented some of the most interesting explorations in Post-Modernism. With facile classical skills, this artist added fantasy and twisted plays of scale. For Bofill’s dystopia, see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Additional projects are other-worldly explorations into geometry and mind-bending repetition. His reconstruction of an abandoned cement factory transforms dilapidated structures into his personal residence and park, as well as offices for his architecture company (first image).

Lucy Carpet House, Mason’s Bend, Alabama, by Samuel Mockbee (photo from livingcircular.veolia.com)
Sheats Goldstein House, Los Angeles, California, by John Lautner (photo from archdaily.com)

JOHN LAUTNER (1911 to 1994)
This Southern California architect captured the sunny optimism of the region. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lautner similarly stretched the rules of structural engineering as well as spatial relationships. He pioneered new possibilities with poured-in-place, steel reinforced concrete. Lautner was a Mid-Century visionary of brave new worlds.

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain, by Antoni Gaudi (photo by hotellacasadelsol.com)
Sagrada Familia Church, Barcelona, Spain, by Antoni Gaudi (photo by Getty Images, Tanatat Ponghibool)

ANTONI GAUDI (1852 to 1926)
When I visited Gaudi’s work in Barcelona, it was only then that I realized that an architect can indeed build his fanciful visions that seem to appear from a hallucinatory fugue. Like a jazz musician, Gaudi improvises, experimenting with Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, taking engineering risks and aesthetic chances. 140 years later, the world is still dedicated to completing Gaudi’s design of the Sagrada Familia Church, an ambitious vision that was conceived before we even had the technology to execute the design.

Lucy Carpet House, Mason’s Bend, Alabama, by Samuel Mockbee (photo from livingcircular.veolia.com)
Community Center, Mason’s Bend, Alabama, by Samuel Mockbee (photo by Johann Strey)

SAMUEL MOCKBEE (1944 to 2001)
Look closely at the Lucy Carpet House. By its name, yes: Those are carpet tiles stacked up to make part of the exterior skin. The design used 72,000 worn carpet tiles held in compression by wood beams on top. And the smell, you might ask? The tiles were stored for seven years to prevent off-gassing. The multi-faceted red structure has a bedroom on top of a tornado shelter. Inventive, novel and philanthropic, Mockbee and his Rural Studio often worked with rural, disadvantaged communities.

Pierre Cardin’s Bubble House, Cote d’Azur, France, by Bart Prince (photo from odditycentral.com)

BART PRINCE (still in practice)
Call it weird—rebellious too. Some would argue that Prince’s work was ugly or better yet grotesque. A colleague of Bruce Goff, Prince’s work was unprecedented and imaginative, whether you saw courageous splendor or awkward shapes. His architecture is a collision of myths, dreams and nightmares, laced with raw materials straight from the shelves of your local hardware store.

Fu Residence, Rio Rancho, New Mexico, by Bart Prince (photo from Robert Peck)

Ayn Rand promoted the Roark-ian ideal through her Objectivist view that “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Does this apply to my six iconoclastic architects above? Let’s just say that Individualism has it merits, as these architects value self-reliance in the creative process–as they cherish their artistic freedom

© Poon Design Inc.