The most striking thing about architect Ricardo Bofill’s creation is the abrupt contrast between its stark brutalist structure and lush evergreen gardens. It looks like one of those eerie abandoned buildings from a Labyrinth-esque realm – at once desolate, beautiful, and exquisitely intriguing.
Welcome to ‘La Fabrica’, a post-war cement factory turned architectural playground many liken to a castle. Located just outside of Barcelona, the 5,000-square-meter structure serves as the home, office and exhibition space of Bofill and his team. Let’s take a closer look at this stunning renovation.
“Seduced by the contradictions and the ambiguity of the place, we quickly decided to retain the factory, and modifying its original brutality, sculpt it like a work of art.” – Ricardo Bofill
The story begins in 1973, when Bofill stumbled upon an abandoned cement factory, dating from the first period of the industrialization of Catalonia.
The construction work lasted for more than a year and involved demolishing 70% of the original structure in order to “reveal hidden forms and recover certain spaces”. In doing so, Bofill hoped to transform “the most ugly thing” into something beautiful.
According to Bofill, “the [final] result proves that form and function must be dissociated; in this case, the function did not create the form; instead, it has been shown that any space can be allocated whatever use the architect chooses, if he or she is sufficiently skillful.”
Inside, the building is split into three distinct spaces: the studio, the cathedral and the residence. Although all the spaces feature aspects of the structure’s original industrial details, each has its own distinct interior aesthetic.
The studio, for instance, boasts an open minimalist vibe, with tall ceilings and pristine white walls. Bright and spacious, with an enviable view of the gardens, it’s the perfect setting to encourage individual concentration and creativity.
The residence on the other hand, which contains Bofill and his family’s private living quarters, is more experimental.
Upstairs, a main living room has been carved out of a huge volume of brute cement. Here, the neo-brutalist skeleton is softened by romantic white drapes billowing around a curated mix of mid-century modern meets boho furniture pieces.
“Domestic, monumental, brutalist and conceptual”, that’s how Ricardo Bofill defines this room of enormous dimensions.
“Presently I live and work here better than anywhere else. It is for me the only place where I can concentrate and associate ideas in the most abstract manner.” – Ricardo Bofill
In the former factory hall lies the final space of La Fabrica – the cathedral. It’s a cavernous room, with a floor to ceiling height of 10 meters, making it the perfect exhibition gallery. The addition of a long wood and steel table also allows the space to be used as a conference room.
Out of all the rooms in La Fabrica, the cathedral is where the factory’s former life is most persistently present thanks to the raw oxidized concrete walls and the preservation of the industrial hoppers. The minimal architectural intervention here ensures the cathedral is visually strong and striking.
Overall, La Fabrica stands as a remarkable example of adaptive reuse. It’s transformation from an impersonal, industrial shell to a hauntingly romantic Brutalist wonderland is a masterclass in creative ingenuity, even if, as Bofill maintains, La Fabrica “will always remain an unfinished work”.