It was 1968 when Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop’s published a kind of manifesto in reaction to the pressing demands of a society in constant transformation. The idea of the City in Space saw the light of day for the first time and was proclaimed as an absolute architecture, capable of resolving all the complexities of its contemporaneity through a unique open, flexible and three-dimensional model.
A year later, the Ministry of Housing assigned some land in the Moratalaz neighbourhood of Madrid to the workshop to make his utopia a reality. At the same time that impossible projects such as those of Arata Izozaki with the City in the Air (1961), Yona Friedman with his Space City (1964) or Kisho Kurokawa with his Helical City (1961) were being born, the Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop was working to convince us of the complete viability of the project.
In the words of the workshop itself: “This project for the development of a large housing complex was conceived to form a multifunctional neighbourhood, inspired by a vision of social factors very much in keeping with its time. The difficulty was to establish structures that were both complex and flexible, capable of quickly assimilating and even facilitating the changes of everyday reality”.
The City in Space did not attempt to assimilate the formal arbitrariness of the city but sought to construct an underlying, almost imperceptible order in which this spontaneity could develop comfortably. A structural matrix would agglutinate cubic cells of industrialised production, and forming units, nuclei and bodies, would give rise to the formal, material and programmatic diversity that its users could offer over time. In this way, protocols of aggregation were established that attempted to emulate the density and complexity of the historic city.
The project did not come to fruition. This time it was political, bureaucratic and economic circumstances – and not technical ones – that prevented this utopia from becoming one. The idea of the City in Space represented, for the Ricardo Bofill Architecture Workshop, the city of the future. It was the synthesis of all the configurations that had been proposed so far. In an exhibition by Ramón Faura, we have rescued from oblivion some of the phrases that this project, which left no one indifferent, used to bring up: notes on the city of the future, realisable utopia, the city as spectacle, mega-structural character, systems of aggregation, agglomeration and mixture, project mechanism, precise intuition, knowledge of form, technological audacity, revolutionary action.