La Fábrica in Barcelona
In the words of the architect Ricardo Bofill:
We found enormous silos, a tall smoke snack, four kilometres of underground tunnels, machine rooms in good shape… This was in 1973 and it was our first encounter with the Cement Factory. This cement factory, dating from the first period of the industrialization of Catalonia, was not built at once or as a whole but was a series of additions as the various chains of production became necessary. The formal result was given, then, by a series of stratified elements, a process which is reminiscent of vernacular architecture, but applied to industry.
Keeping our eyes moving like a kaleidoscope, we already imagined future spaces and found out that the different visual and aesthetics trends that had developed since World War I coexisted here:
- Surrealism in paradoxical stairs that lead to nowhere; the absurdity of certain elements hanging over voids; huge but useless spaces of weird proportions, but magical because of their tension and disproportion.
- Abstraction in the pure volumes, which revealed themselves at times broken and raw.
- Brutalism in the abrupt treatment and sculptural qualities of the materials.
Seduced by the contradictions and the ambiguity of the place, we quickly decided to retain the factory, and modifying its original brutality, sculpt it like a work of art. The result proves that form and function must be dissociated; in this case, the function did not create the form; instead, it has been shown that any space can be allocated whatever use the architect chooses, if he or she is sufficiently skilful.
“Presently I live and work here better than anywhere else. It is for me the only place where I can concentrate and associate ideas in the most abstract manner. I have the impression of living in a precinct, in a closed universe which protects me from the outside and everyday life. The Cement Factory is a place of work par excellence. Life goes on here in a continuous sequence, with very little difference between work and leisure. I have the impression of living in the same environment that propelled the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia.”
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