La Fábrica: Barcelona’s Architectural Gem

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The legendary La Fábrica in Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona is an architectural “tour de force” to be reckoned with, and a definite must-see when visiting the Spanish city. Without a doubt, this cement factory conversion, authorized by well renowned architect Ricardo Bofill, is one of the most impressive examples of adaptive architectural reuse ever seen.

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As a former engineering unit, part of an industrial complex from the turn of the century, the place was abandoned and partially in ruins when Bofill discovered the plant in 1973. In its rampant, pristine state, the colossal compendium was enclosed by surreal elements: stairs that climbed up to nowhere, mighty reinforced structures that sustained nothing and pieces of iron hanging in the air. Bordering on absurdity, the former plant was as such filled with useless sculpture-like spaces of strange proportion. Today, surrounded by the dramatic Catalan scenery, these inherent impure and contradictory elements foster an almost magical tension with the statuesque compound.

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With eight silos and multiple buildings, comprising several multi-purpose underground facilities, massive machine rooms and towering ceilings throughout, the space spans over 30,000 square foot.
Although being a mammoth undertaking, posing countless of design challenges, Bofill transformed the factory into the head office of his architectural workshop Taller de Arquitectura. Remodeling work lasted for two years, as part of the old structure was demolished by stripping tons of cement, leaving hitherto concealed forms deliberately visible.

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In paying homage to the building’s industrial past, the site has become an intricate and diverse mixture of forms, textures, materials and impressions. In doing so, it has preserved the many large cylindrical concrete forms, leaving the building with the air of both a romantic ruin and cloister at the same time.

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Thus, co-habiting with high-tech, white and tobacco colored sofas with rich upholstery seating, warm oriental rugs and inconceivably tall curtains, this architectural gem has a uniquely lofty style.

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Of the thirty silos, eight silos were left standing and turned into offices, a modeling laboratory, an archive, a library, a projection room and a huge space known as ‘The Cathedral’, which serves as a venue for exhibitions, lectures and concerts; all activities that are linked to the architect’s professional life, as well as his personal interests. Situated in the midst of lush gardens of eucalyptus, palms, mimosa trees and cypresses, the composite also compasses Ricardo Bofill’s private residence including multiple guestrooms.

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