It’s 50 years since the construction of Ricardo Bofill’s Muralla Roja

This year will mark the 50th anniversary since the Muralla Roja was completed, the iconic building by the great architect Ricardo Bofill, who passed away last year.

An apartment building in the La Manzanera complex (Calpe, Alicante)

Set within La Manzanera, this symbolic and instagrammable building is like a fortress that draws a vertical silhouette following the curves of the different levels of the rocky cliff next to which it is located. This project was approved in 1968 and completed in 1973, fifty years ago now.

“It embodies a clear reference to the popular architecture of the Arabic Mediterranean, specifically to the adobe towers of Northern Africa.”

Inside the labyrinth

The aim of Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA) was to break up the Post-Renaissance division between public and private spaces, reinterpreting the Mediterranean tradition of Kasbah. That’s why this labyrinth, inspired in the famous illustration by Escher, responds to a precise geometric floor plan based on the Greek cross with arms that are 5 m in length, grouped in different ways, with service towers (kitchens and bathrooms) at the intersection points. The geometrical base of the blueprint is also an approach to the theories of constructivism, and La Muralla Roja clearly evokes these.

“The geometry of crosses generates different labyrinth-like pathways. These in turn create a series of intercommunicated courtyards, that provide access to the apartments.”

A Constructivist aesthetic and vibrant colours

The shapes in the building which as we mentioned evoke a Constructivist aesthetic, create a set of interconnected courtyards that provide access to the 50 apartments.These include 60 Sq m studio apartments, and two or three bedroom apartments of 80 and 120 Sq m respectively. On the rooftop terraces, there are solariums, a pool and a sauna to be used by residents.

“Its shapes are an approach to the theories of Constructivism, and they make La Muralla Roja clearly reminiscent of these.”

The criteria of applying a range of different colours to the building is intended to create specific relief to each of the different architectural elements, according to their structural function.

On the other hand, the surfaces of the exterior are painted in different tones of red, to heighten the contrast with the landscape.

The courtyards and stairwells, however, are areas painted in different tones of blue, such as sky-blue, indigo, violet, to produce a stronger or weaker counterpoint to the sky, or conversely, an optical effect of blending into it.

The intensity of the colours is also related to the light and shows how the combination of those elements can help to create a greater illusion of space.

Geometry vs strength

“La Muralla Roja appears to be a fortified enclosure that emerges from the rocks of the cliff on which it sits.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this project extends to the geometry based on the Greek Cross, grouped in different ways, leaving the service units at the intersection. This composition generates an innovative and complex dividing of the sections.

La Muralla Roja continues to stir passions after almost half a century

This unique building is one of the crown jewels of this talented architect, and is so popular that it is one of the most photographed architectural works and most shared images on Instagram. In fact in 2019, access was banned due to the great influx of tourists who, obsessed with having their picture taken there, were beginning to be a nuisance to its residents.

However, if you are interested in seeing it up close, the way to do so is by renting one of its apartments available on Airbnb. It tends to be very much in demand but, if you do manage to book it, you will also be able to enjoy its spectacular communal pool.

“An architect is not God, even if God metaphorically borrows his art from him.” Ricardo Bofill

(*) Photos by Salva López.