Ricardo Bofill: Seeking Ruin
If postmodernism has been reduced to rubble we can inhabit its ruin to find a way through it. One modality of reference - arguably the apotheosis of the postmodern condition - is nostalgia and ruin. The ruin in the work of Ricardo Bofill and Taller de Arquitectura acts as a leitmotif to confirm the potential for nostalgia to become its own space of critical invention. The ruin is argued for as both an attitude and a technique, as perception and procedure. Where restorative nostalgia attempts to reclaim the essence or existence of an “absolute truth”, reflective nostalgia reframes the part of nostos, or home, as ephemeral rather than absolute.1 Ricardo Bofill nomadically pursues reflective nostalgia by recuperating vernacular architecture and then abstracting it into cubic forms, which cluster, accrete, and march in opposition to the flat International Style slab, or the classical wall surface. Bofill’s architecture is built through literally exploding cement factories. Bofill has shown us that various pursuits of the ruin create a continuum where certain essential parts are missing, whether interrupted by nature, physically destroyed, or stripped of sign. His forms refer to a place that will not exist, exposing rather than imposing a world. Bofill’s invention avoids stability, a final answer, and a fully integrated system. Building and destroying through ruin enables us to straddle the problem of our historical moment and the past that haunts us from both ends. We can work with a rigor and a forgivable tolerance, so we do not lose architecture or ourselves in the process. Ruin, as noun and verb, as object and process, exemplifies a mode of working that can be historically materialist, poetic, allegorical, and critically inventive.