Ricardo Bofill, the "nomad" of Catalan architecture, dies aged 82

His legacy includes great buildings such as the TNC, the Hotel Vela and T1 at El Prat

3 min
Ricardo Bofill at his studio, in 1983

BarcelonaThe architect Ricardo Bofill, known for buildings such as the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Walden, the Hotel Vela and the T1 at El Prat airport, died of coronavirus this Friday at the age of 82. Throughout his career he built over a thousand buildings around the world and carried out major urban works, such as the extension of the Castellana Avenue in Madrid. "My personality is built from the circumstances of a nomad who is proposing ideas in different places," he said when the UPC awarded him an honorary PhD a few months ago. His training began at this university, but he was expelled in 1957, in the midst of Franco's dictatorship, and continued his studies in Switzerland. "You can't project in Beijing as you would in Barcelona," Bofill also said at the time. A farewell ceremony will be held on January 26 and 27 at his studio.

Ricardo Bofill, born in Barcelona in 1939, defined himself as a "nomad" after all the work he did all over the world. He was active until the last moment: his studio, Taller d'Arquitectura, is currently working on the creation of a smart city in China and other projects in Russia, Morocco and the Middle East. Early in his career he was known for the social utopia of La Ciutat a l'Espai, of which Walden 7, in Sant Just Desvern, is a reflection, and later for the postmodernism with classicist overtones of INEF and TNC. He was also a groundbreaking figure in Catalonia, and in July last year he said that he had not been awarded the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize for architects, "because of envy".

Bofill, who in some ways was always an eccentric with respect to the dominant trends in Catalonia, claimed that the changes he had undergone over the years, from the utopias of his beginnings to the later classicist postmodernism, were the result of the circumstances that had befallen him. "I had political problems: they kicked me out of the university [of the UPC in 1957, because of his political militancy], the country kicked me out again, and this made me leave, first to France, then Algeria, Sweden, the United States, Canada, Japan...," he said during a conference in July as president of the international award of the Fad prizes for architecture. "I don't want to be anyone's model," he added, "In the end what I like about architecture, what I think I know how to do, are two things: urban design, the large scale, and trying to create various architectural languages and not always repeating the same ones." Bofill once again made a show of force in November when he was awarded the honorary doctorate by the UPC. In a ceremony held in the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, he assured that "Catalonia is an unfinished country, under construction, where the situation of architecture is not optimal".

Precocious architect

Bofill used his father's office to carry out his first project when he was 19 years old and his first own work, a single-family house for an aunt in Ibiza, when he was 21. In 1963, when he was just 24 years old, he founded the Taller d'Arquitectura, a group formed by professionals from different disciplines to respond to architectural problems from the point of view of engineers, urban planners, sociologists, writers, film directors and philosophers. Since then he has worked from Barcelona, but trying to adapt to the social and economic situation of each place in the world where he developed a project. "Having become a nomad gives me another vision of the world, which is unique and which you can only share with people who also travel a lot," said Bofill, who on a more personal level was one of the most emblematic faces of the Gauche Divine and was married to the actress of the Barcelona school Serena Vergano.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the main task of the Taller d'Arquitectura was regrouped in its Barcelona headquarters, in an old cement factory in Sant Just Desvern. His sons Ricardo and Pablo continue with the studio, which has projects underway in countries such as China, Morocco, France, the United States and Russia, and they assure that "the real legacy" he leaves behind is also the more than one hundred professionals of thirty nationalities who worked for him.

Interior of the Walden building, by Ricardo Bofill, in Sant Just Desvern.