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Ricardo Bofill’s Casa Familiar

As humans, we crave togetherness. With family, with friends, with the people we love. But, for many of us, time in quarantine has taught us something: we also need a bit of privacy. When, in 1973, Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill and his father, Emilio, created a summer house in Mont-ras, a few kilometres from the Costa Brava, they had this in mind. The radical home they built didn’t propose 24/7 family time. Rather, it suggested a harmonious balance between being together and being apart

Place Mont-ras, Spain
Interview By Pablo Bofill, as told to Hannah Martin
Photography Gregory Civera, Tommaso Sartori
From Flos Stories Issue 1

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Constructed around the ruins of a Catalan farmhouse, the home was organised like a small town. Independent modules for living, all made from a local brown brick, were arranged around outdoor social spaces—a swimming pool; a dining room—clad in red ceramic tiles. It’s a place a kid (or an adult) could get lost in, slipping into the shadows during a game of hide-and-seek; disappearing beneath a tree with a book. But it’s just as easy to imagine lively dinners stretching late into the night or poolside conversations with family and friends. Almost 50 years after its creation, a new generation populates the house, Ricardo’s two sons: Ricardo E. Bofill, now president of the firm, and Pablo Bofill, its CEO. During his quarantine in Barcelona (due to strict shelter-in-place orders, he couldn’t make it out to Mont-ras), Pablo reflects on the house where he, ‘discovered my own way of living’.

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The most important thing to know about this house is that it breaks the rules. It’s a family house—it was designed by my father, an architect, and constructed by my grandfather, a builder, in 1973. But it redefines what a family is. The family is not only those people related to you by blood or marriage, but it’s the family you create—your friends. The purpose of this house is to invent a new kind of communal living. You can be together but you don’t have to be together.

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Ricardo Bofill’s Casa Familiar, in Mont-ras, a few kilometres from the Spanish Costa Brava, is organised like a small town. Guests here have their own private residences, but can come together in communal outdoor spaces as they wish.
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The house is designed almost like a small town, with individual modules arranged around outdoor communal spaces. The layout allows everyone their own freedom, their own intimacy, their own life within the space. Every person or couple that stays here gets their own module, and it’s possible to live here without seeing anybody else—you can exit the house, or enter it without passing through the common area. Some people go to this house and use it only as a place to sleep. But, on the contrary, when you are free or when you want to see other people—to have a conversation, to be together—you simply walk outside. It’s a place that is always very active. There are always a lot of people, a lot of discussions.

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The house is designed almost like a small town, with individual modules arranged around outdoor communal spaces.

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Growing up, this house symbolised freedom. Living in Paris until I was 25 years old, it was a place where I could go with all my friends. We would take the train and it was a long adventure to the border of Spain. We’d change trains at 6am and arrive at this place. I remember, when I was 15 or 16 years old, going with many friends. We had this house at the end of June when everyone else was working but we were on holidays. We could enjoy 10 days, two weeks, being alone. It’s a space you don’t have to move from. It’s a house with a patio that has an inner life and everything is going to happen around it. I suppose it’s the place I discovered my own way of living. This house makes room for a variety of approaches.

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It’s a house with a patio that has an inner life and everything is going to happen around it. I suppose it’s the place I discovered my own way of living. This house makes room for a variety of approaches.

This is, in fact, a theme of our architecture—how to live communally without feeling the pressure of everyone else under you. Even if you live in a small apartment in a social housing building like Walden 7, every unit has a separate entrance. People can live together without having the obligation to live together. This is something we always try to do, create a relationship between the individual and the collective.

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Ricardo Bofill with sons Pablo Bofill (left) and Ricardo E. Bofill (right).

For a while, for our own protection, we will not be able to live in the usual ways. We are all confined, right now, to our house or our apartment. We cannot escape our place. We cannot just leave from where we are and go somewhere else. We have the obligation to stay home. But at the same time, we’re social animals. We cannot just live alone. So we have to continue to redefine, through architecture, new ways to be together.

Place Mont-ras, Spain
Interview By Pablo Bofill, as told to Hannah Martin
Photography Gregory Civera, Tommaso Sartori
From Flos Stories Issue 1