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Factory living: Turning a disused industrial space into a garden home

Why it matters to you

If you happen to find yourself in northern Spain, you can visit La Fabrica and explore some of its reclaimed public spaces yourself.

There are many great examples of building reclamation around the world, but few as mood-changing, or as green, as the renovation of La Fabrica in Barcelona, Spain. The 3,100 m2 original concrete factory has been transformed into a large, open plan home, complete with living and dining areas, an art studio and library, all within the confounds of greenery-clad concrete.

Described as being built during the World War I era (by Design Boom), the large scale construction is made up of large, featureless hubs and halls — but over the last 45 years, Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill has transformed it into something quite special. With a combination of tasteful remodeling; the planting of a large number of plants, shrubs, and trees; and a bit of modern flair, he’s created a sprawling home and workspace.

Work began back in the mid-1970s following Bofill’s purchase of the property. The first step was to knock down walls and create the living and social spaces that he would one day call home. There were certain, more dangerous parts of the structure which had to be walled off or filled in — such as the cement-filled silos.

Once the core space was created, the mass-planting project could begin. Gardens on the grounds, on the rooftops, and on the walls were planted and over the ensuing years have grown to swamp much of the facility. They’re curated and pruned though, leaving a space that looks partly wild, but in keeping with the overall design of the property.

While that was ongoing, the interior was remodeled also, creating a large open studio space where factory machinery once dominated, and a library and seating area was founded in a corner of the factory space. Careful placement of curtains and lighting help set moods and bounds within the more open plan parts of the structure, while a few architectural changes were made to the stairwell to add a more dramatic feel.

For more personal spaces like the bedroom, Bofill merged sleeping and bathing into one, creating a unique looking and feeling space to relax in.

Overall, the building retains the harsh lines and core build of its past, but when blended in with the modern twists on design and the ever encroaching greenery, La Fabrica is something quite special.