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On the death of the architect Ricardo Bofill

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 as the son of a Spanish building contractor 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 on. Perhaps it was the Italian experience of an architecture that is not projected into an empty space like classical modernism, but which is built on fragments of old houses and uses the ruins as material for the future, that inspired his vision for the most spectacular modern ruins in Barcelona sharpened. In 1973, Bofill bought an abandoned cement factory in a Barcelona suburb that included thirty silos. At the height of a technocratic modernism that largely demolished the old stock of the cities, he converted the skeleton of the place where the basic material for this modernism was produced into his house, which must be read as a programmatic statement: he showed that living in the ruins of the present is not only possible but exciting. Bofill removed concrete walls, cut light wells and arches into the old factory, glazed and planted until the building was transformed into an enchanting, light jungle – and that 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”, architectural workshop, as if he saw his job more in repairs than in thundering drawing board designs into the empty landscape. The rampant nature in his ruined house was more reminiscent of Fragonard’s roaring tumult forests than houseplants: Bofill did not idyllize, he made nothing cozier, he enlarged the scale and thus achieved what Roland Barthes five years later in his famous lecture “How to Live Together” as Magnificenza – as a size that doesn’t have an overwhelming effect, but rather a euphoric, festively lavish and liberating effect.

Still a role model today

Bofill shared Barthes’ interest in a French visionary of the 19th century who shaped Europe not only politically but also architecturally: Charles Fourier (1772 to 1837) not only invented the word feminism and the economic theories that significantly influenced Karl Marx’s thinking , but also the “phalansterium”: According to Fourier, the workers should not live in shabby little shacks in the future, but in a palace for 1600 residents, reminiscent of Versailles, with a ballroom for celebrations 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 lavish, was unfortunately eliminated for cost reasons.

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