Oi Polloi

Through the Magpie Eye: Ricardo Bofill's Concrete Wonder-Works

Published: Wed Feb 23 2022

La Muralla Roja, Spain, 1973. An intestine-pink maze of staircases and hallways that influenced the set design in that Netflix tv series Squid Game.

During his lifetime, Catalan ‘starchitect’ Ricardo Bofill knew how to do three things with an ample degree of certainty: conjure up some optically-fractalising buildings, pave the way for post-war affordable residencies and being a political rascal.

After getting booted out of prestigious schools of architecture for his Marxist views and his playboy lifestyle, young buck Bofill established his own practice at the tender age of twenty-three, with the aim to create housing that wasn’t just glorified concrete slabs (not that there’s anything wrong with concrete slabs, but poor people deserve a splash of colour too, right?)

Setting up shop in crumbling old concrete factory in Spain, he surrounded himself with a swarm of artists, writers, poets and filmmakers: an environment that significantly opposed the stuffier, pop-corn ceilinged, architectural corporations that his peers fell into. This visionary bunch clearly got his creative cogs whirring as he went on to design several of the most dizzyingly-distinctive apartment blocks known to humankind. Brave hues, mad juxtapositions, a tantalising blend of decorative classical and modern geometry: all influenced by the higgledy-piggledy streets of Ibiza and the labyrinthine bazaars of North Africa which the great-late buzzed off.

Anyway, here is a cluster of Bofill’s best-looking concrete creations:

Les Arcades et Les Temples du Lac, France, 1985. A gargantuan housing complex described by an envious onlookers as “Parthenon on a stick”.

Xanadu, Spain, 1968. Bit nicer than Charles Foster Kane’s gaff, right?

Walden 7, Spain, 1975. If an anthill was the size and scale of a castle, it would look like this.