More than fifty years after its founding, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura remains at the forefront of the urban design and architectural professions. The third generation family business is currently led by Ricardo Bofill Levi, sons Ricardo E. Bofill and Pablo Bofill, and partners Peter Hodgkinson and Jean-Pierre Carniaux. RBTA applies its visionary humanism and cultural intelligence in settings across the world. Centralized in a repurposed former cement factory “La Fábrica” on the outskirts of Barcelona, RBTA consists of a diverse, driven, and cohesive team of talent. Originating from over twenty countries, the staff ranges in specialty from architects and urban planners to interior, graphic and industrial designers. This multidisciplinary and global perspective fosters a cultural sensitivity that informs the work of the internationally renowned architecture, urban planning, and design practice.
RBTA cultivates an established, collaborative, and empowering design methodology centered upon the ongoing dialog between the firm and its local developers and partners. Specializing in urban scale developments, transportation infrastructures, commercial ventures, and public housing, RBTA’s reverence for the nuances of a given place manifests in its ability to navigate a diversity of projects, staff, clients, locations, styles, and scales. The firm demonstrates a comprehensive capacity for approaching massive urban plans and modest domestic projects with equal commitment and contextual sophistication. These clearly defined forms act as urban centers that forge meaningful relationships between an environment and its inhabitants. With a body of work spanning over one thousand projects in forty countries, RBTA continues to set itself apart from its peers.
A respect for history stands as a constant and enduring theme throughout RBTA’s work. The infusion of history into the design approach of each project allows a continual analysis and interpretation of a given culture and its architectural heritage. Breaking away from Socialist and modernist urban planning norms, where isolated and repetitive city blocks are lost among extensive open spaces, RBTA champions a sustainable Mediterranean city model with well defined public space intermingling amidst proportionally scaled streets and squares. A fundamental core of social housing throughout the developing world underscores the firm’s ability to adapt to a local climate while achieving a reputation for cultural, financial, and pragmatic success. RBTA’s talent for integrating a historical dimension within its projects sparks alternative responses to contemporary movements and the social problems of our time.
From La Fábrica headquarters, RBTA carries on the spirit and philosophy that first motivated the practice during its inception in the early 1960s. Wide-ranging experience with large scale international projects, retail centers, office complexes, five-star hotels, private residences, and urban design scenarios produce a new form of integrated urbanism, a place where city, nature, and history intersect. RBTA rethinks city structures while never compromising the desires of the individual and the needs of the local culture. Proposals for Luxembourg’s Place de l’Europe and the comprehensive Moscow Agglomeration plan provide infrastructure for public transport while integrating much needed green space. In addition to these broad master plans, the recently completed Terminal 1 for the Barcelona Airport behaves as an ethereal and visually satisfying follow up to RBTA’s Terminal 2, which was built for the 1992 Olympic Games. The iconic W Hotel Barcelona also builds on this local legacy, and speaks to the ongoing appreciation of the team’s Mediterranean roots. Setting new standards in simplicity, functionality, and luxury, the sail-shaped building offers a unique destination along the city’s waterfront.
Upcoming projects in China, like Shanghai’s Shang Xian Fang residential tower, a residential development in Miami and the headquarters for Panama based Multibank Inc., affirm the firm’s presence in the international scene. RBTA recent schemes in Middle East and North Africa highlight the practice’s skill for working with more sensitive cultural and religious themes. The extensive plan for the Noble Qur’an Oasis in Saudi Arabia adopts a circular design that respects Islamic tradition while acting as a landmark for innovation. Simple, interconnected, and vast, this campus integrates a range of programs and outdoor amenities that relate to the local landscape and values instilled by the Qur’an. Commissioned by the King, the School of Industrial Management just outside of Marrakech in Morocco stages a new hub for technology in the country. Mixing traditional and contemporary aesthetic ideas, the energy-efficient campus design picks up on the local vernacular and effortlessly accounts for the region’s challenging climate conditions.
Further examples of recently completed projects from RBTA include the mixed-use Alexandria building in Saint Petersburg and an immersive installation for the 2014 Venice Biennale. The Alexandria expands on the practice’s work in Russia, developing a stately structure considerate of its historical surroundings and waterfront location.
A spirit of continual research functions as a key element in keeping RBTA at the creative forefront of the architectural profession. Curiosity combined with explorations into material and form grant a foresight into RBTA’s stylistic evolution, contributing to the team’s distinctly original synthesis of classical and geometric forms. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, research into glass and steel opened the door for the design of numerous offices, headquarters, and cultural facilities.
With prestigious clients ranging from public city governments to the private enterprises of Christian Dior, Swift Banking, and Cartier, this period delivers an array of ambitious and highly efficient projects. Congress Palace in Madrid and the Dearborn Center and 77 West Wacker Drive in Chicago each appeared within a decade of each other. The soaring 77 West Wacker Drive pairs the language of the modern skyscraper with a classical temple crown, while the streamlined, glass complex of the Citadel Center holds the title of Chicago’s forty-forth tallest building. The BNP Paribas in Paris further explores state-of-the-art glass technology. By merging cutting-edge façade engineering with traditional proportions, the structure bridges the gap between old and new. Tokyo’s Shiseido building serves as yet another compelling example of RBTA’s diverse and successful research endeavors. The representational headquarters, located in the glamorous Ginza district, engages the latest construction technologies while instigating a crucial reform of local zoning regulations.
During the 1980s RBTA opened a new headquarters in Paris to focus on the construction of social housing and master plans in the region. The simultaneous construction of four projects, Les Arcades du Lac and Le Viaduc in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines; Le Palais d’Abraxas, Le Théâtre, and L’Arc in Marne-la-Vallée; Les Echelles du Baroque in Paris; and Antigone in Montpellier, mark one of RBTA’s most prolific periods. These expansive urban developmental and residential works resurrect the grand promenade, central circulation axes, and the stately nature of traditional French architecture. Two decades in the making, the sweeping Antigone district of Montpellier encompasses four hundred thousand square meters of mixed-use development. The large-scale urban master plan embodies the organization of a typical Mediterranean space while honoring the Renaissance history of the surrounding city. Using classical architecture to provide human scale and proportion, Antigone breaks up the monotony of precast construction to generate a palace for the people.
This focus on French projects began in 1971, with a supporting team’s initial arrival in Paris.
In tandem with efforts in Spain and Algeria, RBTA responded to the demands of various projects for the French New Towns. During this phase, the practice introduced symbolic elements into its plans that referenced the style of French monumental architecture. Urban housing proposals La Petite Cathédrale and Les Espaces D’ Abraxas represent the spectrum of social living ideas integrated into these inhabitable monuments. Les Espaces D’ Abraxas also delves into the manipulation of classical forms of architecture, resulting in a distinct new housing hybrid.
After tackling social issues in the firm’s native Spain, RBTA built on this knowledge by delving into the urban planning problems facing developing countries. Drawn to its North African neighbors, part of the team simultaneously relocated to Algeria in the early 1970s to collaborate with the government on topics related to the urban planning and housing fields. This early work in Algeria culminated two years later with the construction of the vernacular housing project, Houari Boumédienne Agricultural Village, in the south-eastern part of the country.
A geometric logic towards the organization of elements in space still shapes the architectural strategy of RBTA ‘s most recent works. Developed first in a theoretical manner with the project ‘The City in Space’, the formal approach finds its concrete manifestation in 1975 with the construction of the seminal subsidized housing project Walden 7. The radical and colossal apartment complex comprises a fourteen-story cluster of 446 units that maximize both scale and intricacy. Repeating apartment modules, enhanced by private micro terraces and connected via striking interior public courtyards, exalt the stigmatized typology of public housing and provoke a rethinking of how to treat a city’s economically underdeveloped areas.
RBTA’s early works from the 1960s embrace the vernacular details characteristic of traditional Catalan architecture. Exemplified by the first built residence in Ibiza, the organically shaped seaside dwelling utilizes local materials and construction methods that resonate with the genius loci of the region. With this added support and expertise, RBTA broadens its focus to address the urban planning problems occurring at the local level within the Spanish political and social systems. As the scope of projects increase in size, the team conceives a formal methodology for achieving broad public strokes without sacrificing the detail and eccentricity found in smaller scale endeavors.
The inexhaustible and vital vision of RBTA continues its practical and theoretical evolution. Sensitivity towards the shifting political and social transformations of the moment affords RBTA a singular insight that imbues architecture with an added and lasting value. Regardless of scale, these familiar and symbolic international landmarks prove emblematic of their urban and rural destinations.
Whether realizing sports, cultural, or retail facilities, towering headquarters, or modest housing, RBTA maintains a remarkable ability to move seamlessly across borders and scales while adapting to the social and cultural values embedded within each site. In spite of the seemingly endless variety of size, location, and program, this extensive body of work reveals a degree of coherence and a continuity of thinking that correspond to RBTA’s uniquely personal relationship to history and the urban context.