If you love architecture, chances are you’ve come across the iconic “La Fábrica” more than once. The image of the stunning, levelled living room with high ceilings and tall, narrow windows draped in white evokes a feeling of serenity and timeless beauty. But while this particular image is so popular, not many people have had the chance to explore the repurposed factory’s history or the other rooms and gardens that are a part of it’s splendour.
When Ricardo Bofill Levi first laid eyes on what was to become La Fábrica in 1973, located in the Western suburbs of Barcelona, the WWI era cement factory was still active but on the verge of shutting down due to pollution concerns. Bofill, one of Spain’s most revered architects, saw this as the opportunity of a lifetime. He became enamoured with the idea of blowing life back into it and repurposing the industrial complex from functionality to beauty, bridging the gap between industrialism and the post-material society.
The vast settlement originally included 30 monumental silos with underground tunnels and numerous large machinery rooms. In the initial phase of the project, Bofill carefully analysed and selected which elements to keep and reduced the structure down to 8 silos, emptied and cleaned of all cement and debris. From here, “La Fabrica” gave form to 4 separate parts: the Studio, la Catedral, the Gardens and the Residence - forming both a place for work as well as for living.
The Studio hosts the Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA), the architecture firm founded by Bofill, and is located in the silos of the old factory. Here, the firm’s 70 members, ranging from architects and urban planners to executives and project managers, work together across the four floors which are connected via spiral staircases. The Studio is complete with projection rooms, libraries and archives, and Bofill himself can be found in his office on the first floor. Thanks to its high ceilings, spacious interior and abundance of natural light, the former factory hall “La Catedral" offers the ideal space for the firm’s conference and exhibition room.
The Residence is home to Bofill and his family. The iconic living room, also known as “La Sala Cubica”, is located in the upper part of the factory. The space has an unfinished touch, and is characterised by the arc windows and a minimalist approach. Other rooms include the kitchen/dining room, bedrooms, additional living spaces and bathrooms. Finally, the Gardens are a prime example of what true “wild urbanism” looks like - ivy adorns the exterior walls, and a variety of vegetation including palms, eucalyptus, cypresses and olive trees spreads freely across the grounds.
La Fábrica is truly a masterpiece of industrial conversion, and a timeless call to the imagination to remind us to look beyond purpose and perceived restrictions. Where most would simply see a run down factory, Bofill saw a structure that he could mould into a space that would be both inspiring and serene, a place for work as well as living, and in restored harmony with the nature around it.
All images via Ricardo Bofill www.ricardobofill.com