Ricardo Bofill (portrait)
“Architecture must be specific to each place”. Ricardo Bofill
His architect father directly involves him in his projects and construction processes. Together they travelled to Italy and Spain to study vernacular architecture. He graduated in 1959 in architecture from the School of Fine Arts in Geneva. Ricardo Bofill opened his own studio in the 1960s, when he was only 23 years old. He designs buildings, structures and parks all over the world: from the National Theatre in Catalonia to the Manzanares Park in Madrid, from the Crescent in Salerno to the Palacrociere in Savona with sensitivity to both interior and exterior lighting. The Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA) is based in a cement factory, La Fabrica in Barcelona. It brings together architects, urban planners, graphic designers and economists from more than twenty countries with a thousand projects in forty countries around the world. “The factory reminded me of vernacular architecture. It was the industrial vernacular that attracted me. Also there were so many surreal moments like stairs and bridges that went nowhere and arches and arcades in the most unexpected places (…).” (1)
In an interview by Vladimir Belogolovsky to the question: “I read that you employ here not only architects and designers but also mathematicians, musicians, poets, filmmakers, philosophers, sociologists … Could you talk about this interdisciplinary approach to architecture?”
Ricardo Bofill replies: “Architecture is a professional discipline. Fundamentally and artistically, architecture is about space and the relationship between time and space. Architecture must have a relationship to the genius loci of each place. In other words, to its spirit and DNA. Architecture cannot be translated from one place to another. Architecture should be specific to each place. So what I try to do with this multidisciplinary approach is always to invent new projects, new styles. I want to reinvent myself. I don’t want to copy myself or repeat endless forms, like some other architects. I want to adapt to local conditions and traditions. Architecture must be open to other disciplines. Architecture cannot be isolated. And since all other disciplines evolve, architecture should maintain a close relationship with them in order to evolve”. (1)
With his designs, Ricardo Bofill creates a visionary world with bright Mediterranean colours, labyrinthine volumes and forms that distance themselves from the rigid functionalism of the Modern Movement, combining ideal tension and architectural invention. His career developed on the echo of history, memory and landscapes seen in his nomadic life “I learnt more in the Sahara than in a French palace”. “The world is complex and multiform: different cultures can coexist in the same place”. (2)
Architect Piero Castiglioni meets architect Ricardo Bofill during the opening of the Musée d’Orsay (a great school for the master of light in museum lighting design) in Paris. Thus began the collaboration between the two professionals. In 1987, architect and urban planner Ricardo Bofill asked lighting designer Piero Castiglioni for advice on architectural lighting of the former arsenal auditorium in Metz, France. This was the beginning of a collaboration. In particular, there are projects where the lighting design part sees the two great masters designing together.
(1988 – France – Bordeaux – Chateau Lafite – Rothschild winery – Photo courtesy: Piero Castiglioni)
(1988 – Spain – Barcelona – National Theatre – Photo courtesy: Piero Castiglioni)
(1988 – France – Metz – Arsenal – Photo courtesy: Piero Castiglioni)
(1989 – Belgium – Brussels – Switf Headquarters – Photo courtesy: Piero Castiglioni)
“Architecture is the victory of Man over the irrational: the construction of a familiar, domestic and human space,” Ricardo Bofill declared in 1989.
(2009 – Spain – Barcelona – El Prat Airport – Terminal T1 – Photo courtesy: Marco Petrucci)
In the Studio’s photo archive, there are photographs with the following caption: “6 February 2008 – Fiera Milano Rho – Piero Castiglioni and Ricardo Bofill talk about light and architecture – Franco Raggi coordinates”.
(2008 – Italy – Milan – Fiera Milano Rho – Piero Castiglioni and Ricardo Bofill talk about light and architecture – Coordinator: Franco Raggi – Photo courtesy: Piero Castiglioni)
On the occasion of this meeting, organised by Apil, as part of Made Expo “Ricardo Bofill. Light and Architecture”, with Piero Castiglioni and Franco Raggi, “Ricardo Bifill highlighted how the reference to the dominant choices of globalisation, even in architecture, is not just a European mood, but is something that is reflected in all cultures. On the contrary, the problem must be reversed: in a project one must always start from the place, because in relation to places the problems will never be the same. So for Bofill there is not, nor has there ever been, a “unique” architecture, expressed in the minimalism of curtain walling, but there is the logic of “invention” to be premised on one’s own making, as Gaudi did when confronted with models of classical architecture. Thus from the description of his house-studio (a former cement factory on the outskirts of Barcelona) and from the reworking in that case of the elements of an industrial and at the same time ‘vernacular’ architecture, Bofill has finally exalted the weight of light in the scale of the urban form and in the genesis of the building, light as “a fundamental of architecture”, a decisive element more than any other in the structuring of the designed space, emphasising the example of his collaboration with the light designer Piero Castiglioni (lighting specialists), as a collaboration with a specialist now indispensable in the framework of architectural lighting works” (3).
Architect Piero Castiglioni recounts anecdotes, excellent working lunches in Bordeaux, recalls the opening sentence of his speech in Milan at the “Light and Architecture” meeting where Ricardo Bofill begins his speech by saying that the female figure was a muse, a source of inspiration for his projects. He emphasised his way of always going against the tide, a component that did not limit his knowledge to so-called modern architecture: “Modern architectural culture has given itself a statute that is never written down in articles and paragraphs but is actually operative and binding, whose observance is fiercely defended by the powerful establishment of official criticism: what we might call the functionalist statute; a set of prohibitions, of curtailments, of renunciations, of inhibitions if you like, which defines a linguistic area in a negative way, allowing its degradation and withering, its continuous metamorphosis, but not its substantial renewal and vital revival. ” “as an architect I try not to be guided by habit, but rather by a conscious use of the past, carefully observed”. (4)
(2) AD. Article ‘The ultra dimension’, by Sonia S. Braga, 1 October 2019
(3) Light and Design. N.2/2008