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September 22, 2014

In Residence: Ricardo Bofill

How the Spanish Architect Built An Empire Out of a Disused Factory

There are houses, and then there’s Ricardo Bofill’s house: a brutalist former cement factory of epic proportions on the outskirts of Barcelona, Spain. A grandiose monument to industrial architecture in the Catalonian town of Sant Just Desvern, La Fabrica is a poetic and personal space that redefines the notion of the conventional home. “Nowadays we want everyone who comes through our door to feel comfortable, but that's not Bofill’s idea here,” says filmmaker Albert Moya, who directed latest installment of In Residence. “It goes much further, you connect with the space in a more spiritual way.” Rising above lush gardens that mask the grounds’ unglamorous roots, the eight remaining silos that once hosted an endless stream of workmen and heavy machinery now house both Bofill’s private life, and his award-winning architecture and urban design practice. Founded in 1963, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA) is one of Spain’s most prolific firms, with a long list of work that spans the globe: from Les Halles and the Christian Dior headquarters in Paris, to the JP Morgan’s skyscraper in Chicago and the Shangri-La Hotel in Beijing. But it is Bofill’s monolithic conversion showcased here that is undoubtedly his most personal work: a successful, and beautiful experiment in repurposing space, which has become a landmark of alternative living. “My entire crew was under the age of 30, and we all listened to Bofill wide-eyed,” says Moya. “To see someone who is approaching 80 with such a modern and young mentality gave hope to all of us.”

STATS FROM THE SET:

Square footage of the house:  5,000 square meters.

Bedrooms and baths:
Eight bedrooms, 12 baths.

Main building materials:
Concrete, ceramic, wood, glass.

Year house built:
1975.

Oldest item: The furnace, from 1920.

Newest addition: A bedroom and a bathroom, in 2010.

Ceiling Height (at highest point): 10 meters (The Cathedral)

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Spotlight

In Residence: Piero Lissoni

The Modernist Maestro Relaxes at His Sun-Soaked Tuscan Summer House

When building a Tuscan retreat for himself and his family, Piero Lissoni decided that simplicity was key. Visited by filmmaker Matthew Donaldson for today’s edition of In Residence, the Italian designer and architect created an elementary form that was neither part of the vernacular, nor classic Italian pastiche. Keeping faithful to the size and scale of the surrounding houses, he used a concrete that is mixed with the local earth, giving it a characteristic pinkish hue. The stunning landscape envelops the building, its cool, hard lines playing off against the undulating hills. “There is a huge connection between inside and out. I used windows like a super huge screen. I don’t need films here: the theatre is outside, the movies are outside.” The Milan-born innovator founded Lissoni Associati with Nicoletta Canesi in 1986 and has since created an extensive catalogue of designs for brands such as Kartell, Porro, Boffi, Cassina and Flos. His house is filled with a combination of found objects, antique and country furniture, and collected works from contemporaries like James Irvine and Jasper Morrison. By his own admission, today Lissoni is lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the projects he wants. The secret of his success? “I like every year to be better than the year before and to be very good at life, with friends, work, culture, books, food, wine,” he notes. “It is a good obsession.” 

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Spotlight

E.V. Day: SNAP!

The New York Artist Straps Down Da Monsta at the Philip Johnson Glass House

E.V. Day envelops Philip Johnson’s jagged Neo-Expressionist building Da Monsta in kinky red rope for new work, “SNAP!” The first site-specific exhibition to be held at the acclaimed spot is captured by the New York-based photographer Vincent Dilio, revealing pop-savvy concepts that punch a striking metaphysical hole in the bucolic Connecticut landscape. It had already been Johnson’s take that “the building is alive,” and with the exterior evocative of a spider’s web and the interior’s ambient purring chambers filled with a feline-inspired tension, it seems to be living up to its billing. NOWNESS spoke to the prolific sculptor, whose work is housed in permanent collections at The Whitney and the Smithsonian Collection, about her creative processes and her muse, the city of Los Angeles. 

What was your key inspiration for this work? 
E.V. Day: It began with the building itself, whose very name implies a narrative—a monster! I wanted to address it as a living creature, a wild one that swallows you through its entrance and induces vertigo because there are no right angles in the structure. I wanted to play with that energy using taut lines, fishnet stockings, and suspension.

Tell us about the purring chambers. 
EVD:
Philip Johnson would reportedly pat Da Monsta on its right side like a horse each morning. After spending several weeks with the building, I began to feel an affection for it as a character, as opposed to it simply being a building with character. I wanted the sound and the vibration of the purring under its floor to enhance its ‘creature-ness.’ When you sit in the installation and feel the purr, the beast is sleeping and you feel safe. At least for a moment.

As a New Yorker, how have you developed such an affinity with Los Angeles?
EVD:
The compression of NYC grips you like Spanx—it definitely feels spring-loaded here. However, I have pined for LA since I lived there for two years in the early 90s. LA, as the manufacturing center of pop culture and its inherent bounty of problematic social, political, and environmental issues works as an eruption of active content for my art. 

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