Architect: Ricardo Bofill Location: Parida Manzana Spain Calpe Project Year: 1968
Not that I needed another reason to take a trip to Spain, but one look at this architectural wonder from Ricardo Bofill, and I didn’t want to waste any more time before hitting the “purchase” button on those plane tickets. Located in Calpe, Alicante, along the southern coast 1.5 hours south of Valencia, this housing project is undeniably mesmerizing. And the good news? While it may not be a public hotel, you are able to stay in this magical structure and adventure through the colourful maze-like walls as I found during my travels with a little help from AirBnb.
La Muralla Roja, Spanish for ‘The Red Wall,’ is a housing project located within the La Manzanera development in Spain’s Calpe. The building makes clear references to the popular architecture of the Arab Mediterranean Area, a result of the architects’ inspiration by the Mediterranean tradition of the Casbah. The striking colours that cover the outer and inner facades are selected to either contrast with nature or complement its purity.
Formed like a fortress, much like the Walden 7, it is a housing complex making a clear reference to southern Mediterranean architecture. The project appears as if it is emerging from the rocky cliffs it sits on. Its organization challenges the increasing division between public and private space through its reinterpretation of the casbah, which is the walled citadel typical of traditional architecture in North African countries. Characterized by a series of interlocking stairs, platforms, and bridges, this organization is a modern illustration of the circulation in a typical Casbah, providing access to the 50 apartments that form La Muralla Roja.
The complexity of the project extends into the division of apartments, which is in three sizes: 60 sqm studios, 80 sqm two bedroom apartment, and 120 sqm three bedroom apartments. Bofill’s desire to provide enhanced living is seen through with the roof terraces, solaria, a swimming pool, and a sauna, all reserved for the residents’ use. The project corresponds to a precise geometric plan based on the typology of the Greek cross, having, in this case, arms that are five meters long. The crosses intersect at the service towers, which contain the kitchens and bathrooms. In the words of Taller de arquitectura, “the geometric basis of the layout is also an approximation of the theories of constructivism, and makes La Muralla Roja a very clear evocation of these.” 1
Various tones of red paint cover the exterior facade, accentuating the contrast with the landscape. Stairs and circulation surfaces, on the other hand, are treated with different tones of blue ranging from sky-blue to indigo and event violet, depending on weather the intention is to contrast with the sky or create visually continuity with it.” Its vivid colours were selected to complement and contrast the nature that once surrounded it. (Sadly, the neighbouring areas have since been built up.) But its most striking feature may well be its rooftop terrace, which features a beautiful pool in the shape of a cross and doubles as the building’s communal plaza.
The building has been described as “Architecture pulled from last night’s dream. Bold, powerful, completely otherworldly… With a design that is somewhere in-between a strong fortress and a playful hideaway, La Muralla Roja is said to evoke a new emotion upon each visit… Contrasted against the Balearic Sea, the building is delightfully unexpected, evoking a childlike sense of wonder and amazement.” 2
1 “La Muralla Roja – Spain – A Magazine.” Accessed March 26, 2017. http://www.bing.com/cr IG=D58AEC76EA5E4A45A83C5E8B01DE0AEC&CID=38F509D7E5586F6D22A50385E4696E72&rd=1&h=sxnF_NEgmo32VyDVOnxasaj0GjLlyHAPardWtwGCqqE&v=1&r=http%3a%2f%2famagazine.com.au%2fla-muralla-roja-spain%2f&p=DevEx,5407.1.
2 “AD Classics: La Muralla Roja / Ricardo Bofill.” ArchDaily. February 19, 2013. Accessed March 26, 2017. http://www.archdaily.com/332438/ad-classics-la-muralla-roja-ricardo-bofill.