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It may have taken 45 years to turn this industrial monstrosity into a beautiful home, but for Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, the process has been a true labour of love. He came across the crumbling World War I-era cement factory in the 1970s and immediately saw its potential. Now, it has been transformed into a truly grand design.
The project, entitled La fábrica, began with the derelict building, situated just outside of Barcelona, which was a former cement works. The plant, which would have been a source of pollution on an industrial scale, is now a spectacular home that is covered in lush vegetation, with modern living spaces on the inside.
The remodelling was a huge undertaking that took years – Bofill has likened it to a Surrealist work, with stairs that led to nowhere, pieces of iron that hung in the air and huge concrete structures that held up nothing. It was a complete ruin, so work began on demolishing part of the old structure to leave concealed forms visible and to create defined spaces.
Eight of the 30 silos were maintained, which then became part of the headquarters of his firm Taller de Arquitectura – these spaces have been turned into offices, a models laboratory, archives, a library, a projection room and a vast space known as ‘The Cathedral’, which is used for events such as exhibitions and concerts.
The building is surrounded by gardens bursting with life, encircled by cypresses, eucalyptus, palm and olive trees, which is in stark contrast to its former use as an industrial site.
The interiors of the huge 500m² (598 sq. yds.) cement factory naturally gave Bofill abundant space and height to play with, however, he has deliberately not over-filled the rooms with too many decorative elements or fussy details to ensure the star of the show is the structure itself. Everything is done to actually enhance the building’s lofty style; impossibly tall curtains drape from the ceiling and long conference tables exaggerate the length of the workspace.
La fábrica has been a life-long passion of Bofill, and is still somewhat a work in progress as his visions for its future continue to shift and develop. But one thing is certain: this building is a truly astounding example of how an abandoned building can be transformed into something completely unique and extraordinary.