Ricardo Bofill on confronting time, practice of scale, and the pleasure of space

The veteran Spanish architect features in a video by PLANE-SITE, produced for the Time Space Existence biennial 2020.

by Zohra Khan Dec 19, 2019

The work of Ricardo Bofill defies easy classification. The founder of Barcelona-based practice Taller de Arquitectura features in a short film by PLANE-SITE, produced in the run-up to the opening of Time Space Existence biennial to be held in Venice next year.

18 mins watch Ricardo Bofill speaks about confronting time, practice of scale, and the pleasure of space in the video | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
Ricardo Bofill speaking about confronting time, practice of scale, and the pleasure of space Video Credit: Courtesy of PLANE-SITE

The interview took place at La Fábrica - the repurposed cement factory turned studio and home of the architect, which is also one of his most distinguished projects realised till date. The conversation is part of the Time Space Existence series, which brings together inspiring conversations with prominent and emerging architects, with a previous line-up comprising the likes of Peter Eisenman, BV Doshi, Arata Isozaki, Fumihiko Maki, Tatiana Bilbao, WOHA Architects, Daniel Libeskind and Kengo Kuma.

“Architecture opens the capacity for generosity.”

In the video, Bofill describes an intimate analogy that he derives out of architecture. “The most important part of the relationship with architecture is the capacity for generosity,” he says, further adding that if “the relationship exists, love exists”.

  • La Fábrica, Sant Just Desvern, Spain – a disused cement factory turned into a studio and home for the architect  | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    La Fábrica, Sant Just Desvern, Spain – a disused cement factory turned into a studio and home for the architect Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill
  • A peek into the interiors of La Fábrica | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    A peek into the interiors of La Fábrica Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill

“To work at different scales is the architect’s wisdom.”

At its most monumental, his work has an affective quality — notably the Espaces d’Abraxas housing complex in Paris, which has divided public opinion since it was finished in 1983, and the never-completed Les Halles. Speaking from his interdisciplinary practice that operates at different scales, Bofill advises contemporary architects that they must learn how to leap between scales without making it appear like multiplication, for if it is the latter, it would be ‘monumentality without a soul’.

Housing project La Muralla Roja in Calpe, Spain draws inspiration from the traditional architecture of the Mediterranean Arab | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
Housing project La Muralla Roja in Calpe, Spain draws inspiration from the traditional architecture of the Mediterranean Arab Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill

Intrinsic threads within his oeuvre combine the use of classical motifs, brutalism and traditional Catalan building methods. But at the heart of each work lies the source of deep pleasure that he draws from, which is unlike the pleasure of music or arts. This pleasure of space, Bofill says, is experienced when one reads the space not from a certain point of view but from a state of constant flow.

  • Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Spain – a housing project with a complex system bridges and balconies | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Spain – a housing project with a complex system bridges and balconies Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill
  • Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Spain - The project features multiple internal courtyard flushed in hues like blue, violet and yellow | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    Walden 7, Sant Just Desvern, Spain - The project features multiple internal courtyard flushed in hues like blue, violet and yellow Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill

“The control of time is the most important element in my own personality.”

Coming from a family of builders, Bofill was exposed to the understanding of space and the built environment early in life. One of the reasons why he took architecture, as he describes in the film, was to face the ‘futility of life’ and that by doing architecture he could ‘live or leave a story’ that will last for years to come. He does not believe in it anymore: “I do not think that the construction of a work surpasses you or I do not think it has much importance. At this moment what I think is interesting for me is the work itself, it is the challenge of each project, the challenge of each idea.”

Xanadú, Calpe, Spain - the project, housed next to La Muralla Roja, features a rigid geometrical façade formed by an array of cubes | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
Xanadú, Calpe, Spain - the project, housed next to La Muralla Roja, features a rigid geometrical façade formed by an array of cubes Image Credit: © Ricardo Bofill

The project is composed of cubes whose rigid geometry is broken on the exterior to create a façade portraying a beautiful play of light and shadow

“Everyone knows that creativity runs out.”

The architect (aged 80) whose career has spanned over fifty years, producing more than 1000 buildings in over 50 countries, still exercises his creativity and challenges himself to try doing his best to continue creating.

The Time Space Existence video series has been made possible with the support of European Cultural Centre.

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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