Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill dies aged 82

Barcelona (AFP) – Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, who designed hundreds of projects around the world, winning plaudits for his innovative social housing in France, died Friday of Covid-related complications, his family said. He was 82.


"He died a few hours ago," his son Pablo Bofill told AFP.

Born in Barcelona in December 1939, just after the end of Spain's three-year civil war, Bofill was known for designing airports, skyscrapers and cultural landmarks, such as the National Theatre of Catalonia and the Donnelley and Dearborn skyscrapers in Chicago.

But he made his name in the 1970s when he was commissioned to create large social housing complexes in France.

"I have done a lot of urban design, city design, that's what I like doing," while trying "to invent different architectural languages and never repeat myself," he told a conference in Barcelona in June 2021.

In a statement, the family said there would be an event held at his Barcelona studio on January 26 and 27 "to pay tribute to the architect".

Born to a Catalan architect father and a Venetian mother, Bofill began studying at architecture school in Barcelona in 1957 but was kicked out for political reasons after being arrested during Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

He continued his studies in Geneva and in 1963 returned to Barcelona to set up the Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA) with a group of left-wing intellectuals from different disciplines.

His studio, which is based in a former cement factory on the outskirts of Barcelona and has offices in Paris, Montpellier, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, Beijing and Algeria, has completed more than 1,000 projects worldwide.

Architectural 'shock and awe'

But it was his social housing projects in France that propelled him to international stardom, with designs which "shocked and awed the public and the profession alike with their use of a highly monumental classical language at a scale never before seen," wrote Douglas Murphy in the book 'Ricardo Bofill: Visions of Architecture'.

It was Bofill's social housing projects in France, such as the Abraxas buildings near Paris, that propelled him to international stardom
It was Bofill's social housing projects in France, such as the Abraxas buildings near Paris, that propelled him to international stardom Lionel BONAVENTURE AFP

Such work quickly ranked him alongside international architects such as Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and later his compatriot Santiago Calatrava.

At a time when American city centres were disappearing to make way for highways and shopping malls and with the private car becoming the focus of urban planning, Bofill stood out for championing the Mediterranean city model.

Even so, some of his social housing megaprojects earned him accusations of "brutalism", with filmmaker Terry Gilliam setting part of his dystopian film "Brazil" in one of his social housing complexes on the outskirts of Paris.

Bofill was particularly inspired by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and French neoclassical architects Francois Mansart and Claude Nicolas Ledoux but he reserved his greatest praise for his compatriot Antonio Gaudi, whom he described as "the greatest genius in the history of architecture".

"He never repeated two elements or forms," he said.