27 Feb, 2022 @ 16:15
2 mins read

IN PICS: A look at the legacy of Ricardo Bofill, the Spanish architectural genius who died in January

Ricardo Bofill
April 3, 2013 - Prague, Czech Republic - Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill cooperated on the architectural design of multifunctional Vision Park Karlin. The authors are AED Prague studio project together with Ricardo Bofill. The main investor is a Czech businessman Zdenek Bakala, a minority investor is Dutch businessman Bessel Kok. Ricardo Bofill is seen in Vision Park Karlin, Prague, Czech Republic, April 3, 2013. (Credit Image: © Stanislav Zbynek/CTK/ZUMAPRESS.com)

RICARDO BOFILL died aged 82 last month, a year before Calpe made 2023 the ‘Bofill Year’ to celebrate his remarkable creations and he was set to get a Spanish national stamp.

The Catalan was one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century and a pioneer of the style that came to be known as postmodernism.

Bofill’s La Muralla Roja, considered to be one of his finest works.
Photo: creative commons licence.

Like Richard Rogers or Norman Foster his influence has been vast. When Netflix released Squid Game, which would become the most watched series in its history, many viewers noticed an uncanny resemblance between the striking staircases patrolled by masked guards and one of Bofill’s most famous works La Muralla Roja (The Red Wall) on the Costa Blanca.

 Red Wall  Residents Angered By Calpe Council Snub Over Cultural Status Objections On Spain S Costa Blanca

Just three months ago, Calpe City Council formally declared that 2023 would be “Bofill Year” and in January, the council submitted a request to have a postage stamp issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the Red Wall of Calpe.

His works proved divisive, being panned by his detractors as ‘kitsch and gaudy’ while praised by his fans, with many saying they ushered in a new era of modern architecture.

Bofill Cc
Les quatre barres de la senyera Catalana. Photo: creative commons licence

He was also noted for his focus on designs for social housing, with his son declaring that his objective was ‘to demonstrate that at a modest cost you can build social housing where every floor is different, where people don’t have to walk down endless corridors, and where different populations can be part of one community.’

Ricardo Bofill Taller Arquitectura Walden Sant Just Desvern Barcelona Spain 01 1440x960 1

Bofill was born just as the Spanish Civil War ended. Imbued by deep anti-fascist leanings, he was arrested in 1958 while at university for taking part in protest against dictator Franco, culminating in his expulsion from Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona.

Ricardo Bofill
Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill died on January 14, 2022. (Credit Image: © Stanislav Zbynek/CTK/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Frequently drawing the ire of the powerful, his proposal for a revolutionary new housing project in Madrid with striking colours and a succession of turrets led the then fascist mayor to tell him he would never again be commissioned in Spain. 

He found favour elsewhere and in Paris, he secured a position to redesign the celebrated markets in Les Halles only to be later fired by future French President Jacques Chirac just as the project was getting underway. 

Bofill Cc 2
La Fabrica Photo: creative commons licence

Art critic for The New York Times Paul Goldberger said in 1985 that Bofill’s gift to France was “to be able to unite the French instinct toward monumentality, which has lain dormant since the days when the Beaux-Arts ruled French architecture.”

Ricardo Bofill Taller Arquitectura 77th West Wacker Drive Chicago Usa 01 1440x1234 1
77 West Wacker Drive. Photo: https://ricardobofill.com/

He turned his attention to glass and steel With projects including the 77 West Wacker Drive office tower in Chicago and an extension of Barcelona Airport for the 1992 olympics.

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National Theatre in Catalunya. Photo: https://ricardobofill.com/

The jewel in the crown of his works, La Muralla Roja, was completed in 1973 and was heavily influenced by North African Kasbahs.

Iconic 'Red Wall' building on Spain's Costa Blanca to be celebrated in 50th anniversary year
Iconic ‘Red Wall’ building on Spain’s Costa Blanca to be celebrated in 50th anniversary year

In 1996, The National Theatre of Catalonia which he designed opened its doors. Likened to a mausoleum or an ancient Greek temple, it has since become an integral bastion of Catalan culture.

In 2009 he completed The Four Bars of the Catalan located in the Plaza Rosa de los Vientos in Barcelona, a homage to the Catalan flag.

Never losing his passion for work, he lived by his adage: “Architecture is the victory of man over the irrational.”


George Mathias

George is an NCTJ trained-journalist who moved from London to Spain's Costa del Sol and joined the Olive Press in February 2022. He has previous experience working at the Basingstoke Gazette and Reach. Contact him George@theolivepress.es

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