In the early 1970s, when Ricardo Bofill, then a young architect, fell in love with a cement factory abandoned since 1968 in Sant Just Desvern, a suburb of Barcelona, he was struck by love at first sight.
Driving to the western suburbs of Barcelona, the landscape in Sant Just Desvern featured blocks of concrete, enormous silos, chimneys exhaling smoke. Still active at the time, the 31,000-square-meter industrial complex was to be dismantled a month after that visit. For the architect, it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy his longing for space. Taking care of that decaying factory, he could give it a second life.
“During my first visit to the cement factory, I suddenly thought that the horrible could be turned into beautiful, in the same way that idiocy can sometimes be turned into genius. By changing the way of looking at the object, as if through a kaleidoscope, I began to imagine the different aesthetic systems included in this work: brutalism, through the hard and sculptural treatment of the material; surrealism, through the uselessness, the paradox of stairs going nowhere or pure broken volumes; abstraction, through the stripping of forms and lines in space. I’ve decided to keep this factory, to turn ugliness into a work of art and to set up my studio inside.”
The industrial settlement originally consisted of 30 monumental siloes, four kilometres spanning a web of underground tunnels, and various large rooms devoted to hosting machinery.
See how the property went from an old industrial site to a luscious and liveable space.
After three years of colossal work, the architect moved his agency called Taller de Arquitectura there, and he also decided to live there, from 1974.