In 1973, the architect discovered an old cement factory no longer in use in Sant Just Desvern, a town in Catalonia, Spain, just outside of Barcelona. The factory was dated from the first period of the industrialization of Catalonia, and as such, was not built at once or as a whole, but as a series of additions as the various chains of production became necessary. It consisted of enormous silos, a tall smoke stack, machine rooms, some four kilometres of underground tunnels and stairs that climbed to nowhere.
The architect was seduced by the potential, deciding at once to transform the industrial complex into a live/work space and the head office of Taller de Arquitectura, modifying its original brutality and sculpting it like a work of art. The remodeling would last about two years, and began with the demolition of part of the old structure, defining spaces and adding greenery to soften the effect of the concrete–plants would climb walls and hang from rooftops. In the end, eight silos would remain and be transformed into the team’s studio, offices covering four floors and connected by a spiral staircase. A library, archives, models laboratory, projections room would also be added to the complex and the original factory hall was transformed into a conference and exhibition room, and become known as “The Cathedral”. Outside, lawns and gardens of eucalyptus, palm and olive trees and cypresses surround the space.
In the end, form and function were dissociated, as in this instance, function did not create the form, but rather, it can seen that any space can be used in any manner of the architect’s choosing, if he or she has enough skill and imagination …
“… surrealism in paradoxical stairs that lead to nowhere; the absurdity of certain elements hanging over voids; huge but useless spaces of weird proportions, but magical because of their tension and disproportion.” —Taller de Arquitectura
“Presently I live and work here better than anywhere else. It is for me the only place where I can concentrate and associate ideas in the most abstract manner.
I have the impression of living in a precinct, in a closed universe which protects me from the outside and everyday life. The Cement Factory is a place of work par excellence. Life goes on here in a continuous sequence, with very little difference between work and leisure.
I have the impression of living in the same environment that propelled the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia.”