I Photograph the Most Colorful Buildings in the World—These 5 Belong on Your Bucket List
Go for the ’gram, stay for the view.
Published May 8, 2019 7:00 AM
If there’s one design book that belongs on your coffee table this year, it’s Visions of Architecture. The monograph from publishing house Gestalten catalogs the poetic and fantastical structures of renowned Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, whose exceptionally colorful structures have shaped the Spanish landscape since the 1960s. While Visions of Architecture ($69) isn’t the first book dedicated to Bofill’s rainbow-tinted portfolio, the publication features a series of new images captured by Barcelona-born photographer, Salva López.
“They’re very photogenic,” says López of Bofill’s buildings, though he admits that’s putting it lightly. “They’re a total playground for photographers.” In a world where everyone and their mother is a travel influencer, López was faced with a unique obstacle: originality. “My interest was to try to capture scenes that have not been seen before. I think that in some photos, I got it,” he shares.
Each image meets all the prerequisite qualities of a viral Instagram, but they’re so much more than snapshots meant to accrue likes. “There’s an experience you have when there’s a sudden change in color—it takes your eyes a while to adapt,” says López of climbing the stairs at La Muralla Roja. “When you get to the blue, there’s a strange effect that happens when you enter and then look up at the sky.”
Still mapping out your summer itinerary? Ahead, López takes us on a virtual tour of five must-see Bofill buildings that look good on paper but are even better in person.
La Muralla Roja
“Without a doubt, the building I enjoyed photographing the most was the Red Wall,” says López. La Muralla Roja, which is Spanish for “The Red Wall,” is a housing project located on the water’s edge in Calpe. The fortress-like building blurs the lines between public and private space through a labyrinth of interlocking stairs, platforms, apartments, and bridges that leap from red to pink to blue.
The structure is easily Bofill’s most recognizable work, which made finding his angles particularly challenging. “Recently, I saw some pictures in a lighting catalog of the Red Wall in black and white that were really amazing. When you take the color out of that building, it seems like a totally different place.”
Like fellow Barcelona-based photographer Gregori Civera—whose vivid image can also be found in Visions of Architecture—López was tasked with the unique job of translating Bofill’s penchant for eccentric curves, punchy hues, and layered geometrics to a two-dimensional surface. Walden 7, an apartment building in the town of Sant Just Desvern, presented a unique challenge.
Unlike the whimsical nature of La Muralla Roja, this building was constructed as if it were a part of a science-fiction novel come to life. The Tetris-like building encompasses 446 residences—each different from the next—and is clad in ceramic tiles. Deep inside, you’ll find rich ocean blues, but outside, the structure is swathed in sandy terra-cottas.
Once a deserted cement factory, La Fabrica (or The Factory) is now home to Bofill and Manuel Nunez-Yanowsky’s firm, Taller de Arquitectura. Inside, the silos have been converted into offices, archives, and event spaces. Outside, the industrial complex is crawling with greenery. Secret gardens filled with cypress, olive trees, and eucalyptus make it feel as though you’ve discovered the long-lost ruins of Atlantis.
Les Espaces d’Abraxas
Comprising three parts and nearly 600 apartment units, this palatial postmodern complex outside of Paris appears as though it was lifted straight from the pages of The Hunger Games. But don’t let its austere facade fool you: In between solid slabs of concrete, you’ll find slivers of pink and orange and residents who swathe the interiors of their windows in equally bold fabrics.
Arcades du Lac
This is one you’ll have to hop borders to experience, but the extra effort is worth the visit. Situated in Montigny-le-Bretonneux in France, the Arcades du Lac is effectively Bofill’s modern interpretation of a French garden—a fitting choice, considering the apartment building is located near Versaille. The Arcades du Lac might not feature any fancy tile work, but the building gets plenty of color from the reflection of the lake.
Ricardo Bofill: Visions of Architecture retails for $69. You can pick up your copy through Gestalten.
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