Ricardo Bofill: the outsider architect who gave 60s Spain a sci-fi makeover

Photograph: Jurgita Vaicikeviciene/Alamy © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Jurgita Vaicikeviciene/Alamy

A dazzling pink castle perches atop the coastal cliffs of Calpe, near Alicante in southern Spain, its pastel turrets standing like a coral outcrop above the shore. The high fortified walls hide a vertical maze of staircases and terraces within, painted in shades of baby blue, lilac and red, opening out on to the sparkling waters of hidden rooftop pools.

This candy-coloured citadel of holiday apartments is the work of Ricardo Bofill, the maverick Catalan architect who has died aged 82. He spent a lifetime conjuring otherworldly buildings, which now stand like monuments from some future-primitive sci-fi civilisation. Half a century after their construction, his fantastical creations have inspired a whole new generation, being used as futuristic film sets and influencing the aesthetic of everything from the Monument Valley video game to the cult TV show Squid Game, whose stairs he designed.

Completed in 1973, La Muralla Roja was a spectacular arrival to this sun-kissed coast, otherwise dotted with traditional whitewashed villas and generic concrete apartment blocks. At once ancient and modern, it echoed the dense casbahs of traditional north African cities, with their labyrinthine layouts of narrow alleyways, courtyards and high adobe towers, translated into a vertiginous Escher-like world. Today it swarms with selfie-snapping influencers and music-video location scouts, a seductive pastel backdrop for the Instagram era.

Bofill was a glamorous star of postmodernism in the 1970s and 80s, enjoying international fame and a playboy lifestyle, but as fashions changed his expressive work fell out of favour. When I met him in 2017, he was thrilled that his projects were being rediscovered by a new, colour-starved generation, enrapt by his psychedelic, sculptural worlds.


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Ricardo Bofill: the outsider architect who gave 60s Spain a sci-fi makeover