The City in Space: A Utopia by Ricardo Bofill

1968 was the year Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop published a sort of manifesto to address the urgent demands of a society that is constantly changing. The City in Space was first conceived and proclaimed to be an absolute architecture capable of solving all the problems of contemporaneity using a unique, flexible, and three-dimensional model.

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

One year later, the Ministry of Housing gave land in Madrid’s Moratalaz neighborhood to the workshop for him to build his utopia. The Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop was proving that the impossible projects of Yona Friedman (1964), Arata Izozaki (1961), and Kisho Kurokawa (1961) were all possible, while the City in the Air (1961) and Space City (1964) were being realized.

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

The workshop stated that the project to develop a large housing development was designed to create a multifunctional neighborhood. It was inspired by a vision of social elements and very much in line with the time. It was difficult to create structures that could be both flexible and complex, and capable of quickly adapting and even facilitating changes in everyday reality.

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura
La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura
La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura
La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

The City in Space didn’t attempt to assimilate its formal arbitrariness, but rather sought to create an underlying order in which spontaneity could flourish. The structural matrix would glue together cubic cells from industrialised production and form units, nuclei, and bodies. This would allow for the formal, material, and programmatic diversity its users could provide over time. Protocols of aggregation were developed that tried to replicate the dense and complex architecture of the historical city.

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Flexibility was key, since the support structure didn’t match the formal structure and there were ambiguous and unnecessary areas. As the team was committed to the cubic grid, the construction methods were based upon the three orthogonal dimensions. Also, the search for a system that promotes grid proliferation in the urban ensemble or neighborhood. This was not meant to create a juxtaposition or specific patterns but to evolve organically in space, following definitive geometric laws.” Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

The project was not realized. It was not technical, but political, bureaucratic, and economic obstacles that stopped this utopia becoming a reality. Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop saw the City in Space as the city of the future. It was the culmination of all configurations previously proposed. Ramon Faura’s exhibition has saved from oblivion some phrases that this project used to use: notes on the city, realisable utopia. Systems of aggregation and agglomeration. Project mechanism.

La ciudad en el espacio. Image Cortesía de Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura
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