Ricardo Bofill’s La Muralla Roja – a cinematographic dream house in coastal Spain

Located in the coastal town of Calpe, Spain, La Muralla Roja is a striking combination of North-African architectural influences, surreal pastel colors and geometrical constructivism. The breathtaking apartment complex is just one of architect Ricardo Bofill’s over 1,000 projects.

La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja, located on the eastern coast of Spain, was built in 1973.

IF WES ANDERSON were to set a film in Spain, we are quite sure he’d pick La Muralla Roja as one of its locations. The colorful walls and dramatic setting on top of rocky cliffs make it a uniquely cinematographic building, but don’t be fooled by its beauty. La Muralla Roja is more than a pretty facade.

Even though it may look like a fortress or a labyrinth, La Muralla Roja (The Red Wall in English) is an apartment complex designed by Ricardo Bofill in 1968 and built in 1973. This constructivist reinterpretation of the Kasbah and the adobe buildings of North Africa features 3 types of residences: 60 m² studios, and two and three-bedroom apartments of 80 and 120 m², respectively. In total, 50 homes that are accessed through an ensemble of interconnected patios.

On the roof terraces, the lucky residents can enjoy solariums, a swimming pool and a sauna. Its geometric plan is based on the Greek cross with 5 meter long arms grouped in different ways, and service towers with kitchens and bathrooms located at their point of intersection.

La Muralla Roja
Designed by the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, the colorful apartment complex houses 50 homes in total.
La Muralla Roja
The warm red tones of the outside walls create contrast with the surrounding environment.
La Muralla Roja
“The play of light is an essential part of how the building appears to you,” photographer Nana Simelius recalls.

Structure aside, the striking colors are what has given La Muralla Roja its name and its fame. They were chosen taking the surroundings in consideration so the building interacts with them in a different way depending on the area. The outside’s various shades of red contrast with the landscape while the patios and stairs are painted light blue, indigo and violet to blend with the sky.

Thinking of paying a visit? The complex is located in Calpe, a coastal town near Valencia that is a must for Bofill fans, and not only because of La Muralla Roja. Calpe is also home to other buildings designed by Bofill, such as Xanadú (1971), Las Villas (1982) and El Anfiteatro (1983). If admiring the building from the outside is not enough, you can even stay at La Muralla Roja since there are several apartments that can be rented for a few nights.

La Muralla Roja
The architectural influences of La Muralla Roja come from the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Kasbah and the adobe buildings of North Africa.
La Muralla Roja
For those seeking to admire the building from the inside, there are several holiday apartments available for rent. On the same visit, you can also discover other buildings designed by Bofill.
La Muralla Roja
The endless play of angular shapes and pastel colors create a surreal, dream-like world.

The photos for the story were taken by Finnish photographer Nana Simelius, who visited Muralla Roja for work in 2017.

“Even though the building is graphic and rugged, its atmosphere is still delightfully mellow and playful. I felt like a child when walking up and down the endless stairs and corridors with my camera. From slightly different angles and times of the day, the same places offered dozens of different views.

The play of light is an essential part of how the building appears to you. One unforgettable moment was a staircase in a darkening evening and a door glowing with light above it. The sun was shining from exactly the right angle from the opposite side of the building, creating a surrealist view. An exceptional silence emphasized the experience. Even though the building has numerous apartments, the thick walls make it extremely peaceful. The rocky cliff and the ascending walls by the ocean create a feeling of a unique fortress, a world of its own”, Simelius recalls.

Architect Ricardo Bofill
Ricardo Bofill's (1939–2022) architectural career spanned over 50 years. Image: Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura.

Who: Ricardo Bofill

  • Ricardo Bofill was the founder and chairman of Taller de Arquitectura, an architecture firm established in 1963 following the footsteps of Ricardo’s father Emili, a local property developer and builder.
  • Born in 1939 in Barcelona, he started his studies at the Barcelona School of Architecture and graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts Genève. He is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Bund Deutscher Architekter, has been named Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and has won numerous international awards.
  • Through his prolific career, he led more than 1,000 projects in over 50 countries, ranging from private housing to urban design. Some of his most remarkable works include Walden 7 (Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona), Paribas Marché Saint Honoré (Paris), Platinum Tower (Beirut), and 77 West Wacker Drive (Chicago).
  • Bofill was also a published author. He has co-written the books L’Architecture des villes (1995) and Spazi di una vita (1996) and is the subject of many others.

Text: Irene de Mas Castanyer Images: Nana Simelius 

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