Bofill’s La Muralla Roja, a Spanish Bastion
What better way to remember Ricardo Bofill
La Muralla Roja is a colour drenched citadel, a mid-century Camelot with a dream-like quality. But don’t be deceived, it’s so much more than a playground for the fashion pack
At first glance, it’s as if a very smart artificial intelligence made the final decision about the colour mapping and geography of these iconic 1968 residences in Alicante. Visitors are drawn to the maze of walkways, bridges and balconies all interlocked to great effect, created by Ricardo Bofill who passed away on 14th January 2022.
What La Muralla ‘the red wall’ does so successfully is to give a sense of the whole – of something complete that envelops the visitor. Casbah is frequently mentioned suggesting that Bofill drew on North African Arabic themes for inspiration, that is clearly true but that expression g0es deeper than a mere vibe. In North Africa, casbah is the Arabic word for the central bastion of a city, a last-place of defence. Sitting within the Taller de Arquitectura’s La Manzanera development in Calp, Spain, La Muralla clearly acknowledges the Arab history of the region.
Zurich-based Architect Lukas Schlatter has captured the spirit of the 1968 estate in a beautiful collection of photos that go a long way to explain why it has become the darling of Generation Z. Lukas has painstakingly documented La Muralla, part of a project to map ‘monumental’ buildings in need of protection. This is not Lukas’ first foray into documentary photography. He has previously catalogued the old town of the Swiss city of Zug for an inventory database.
What were your first impressions?
When I visited La Muralla Roja in Calp, I was staying for a couple of nights in the apartment just below the cross-shaped rooftop and swimming pool. The view from these apartments with their small terraces facing towards the sea is stunning. Although the project has a very high density, you still get a real sense of privacy from within your individual apartment. I got the sense that it wasn’t just that I happened to be in what felt like the best apartment in the development- it was more that every apartment had that feeling about it.
Did you have the sense that Ricardo Bofill had a particular inspiration?
The complex is reminiscent of a virtuosic labyrinth. Despite the sheer size of the cluster, there are many small private retreats. Ricardo Bofill was inspired by North African fortress typologies. He planned various developments in Calp. La Muralla Roja is in my opinion probably the most impressive of all his works. Close to the cliffs, the colourful complex reaches up into the air. When you arrive it is like you are entering a new world unfolding before your eyes.
If you had to describe the design to someone who hasn’t seen it before, what would you say?
High towers and striking vertical lines meet a complicated horizontal topography and stair landscapes.
The design is best understood from above. It is designed in the shape of a Greek Cross with intersecting arms, at the crossing point at the heart of those intersections (at the service tower) is the engine room of any home – the kitchen and the bathroom.
What are its special qualities?
Bearing in mind that it was built as a prototype, it shows perfectly how the interplay between private and communally used spaces can represent an increase in cultural value. It also has a brilliant way of showing how architectural design contrasts with the natural environment as well as imitating it.
Why does it work so well?
Its surprisingly well preserved and maintained. The success of the development is very intertwined with the relationship between the individual and the community. Fortunately, the project seems to have attracted a lot of attention in recent years and is celebrated by the art and fashion world for its cinematographic and photogenic qualities which add to its allure.
Here at Greyscape, we can’t help be struck that there are two great modernist residential developments that reference and draw from medieval castellated architecture, La Murallo Roja, of course, and the Barbican in
Architects architect; who do you admire most? Which architect (current or historic) do you admire most?
I was both influenced by and admire the Belgian architect, Juliaan Lampens. I had the privilege of staying in the Van Wassenhose House. Probably the most radical house I’ve ever experienced. Its the use of simple, raw materials in favour of a more precise structure. This all emphasises the spacial experience and atmosphere. Here is somewhere that unites Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto’s philosophies.
Are you a Wrightian?
Yes! I drove the six hours from NYC to Bear Run to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. I’ve form undertaking these treks. I visited the Orange County Community Center designed by Paul Rudolph. which later was the subject of a controversial conversion.
What is influencing you at the moment
Something that has influenced me for some time is the theory of Transparency by Colin Rowe and Robert Slutsky, in the translation and comments by Bernhard Hoesli.
Are you reading anything interesting at the moment?
A history of philosophy” by Richard David Precht.
Fav comfort food, we all need one now!!
A family recipe – a spaghetti gratin with cheese, tomato sauce, meat and mushrooms.
All images are the Copyright of Lukas Schlatter ©