The UPC has conferred an honorary doctoral degree on the architect Ricardo Bofill Levi

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The rector Daniel Crespo and Ricardo Bofill, after Bofill was conferred an honorary doctoral degree

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Ricardo Bofill during the ceremony

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Ricardo Bofill and Professor Félix Solaguren-Beascoa, director of the ETSAB and sponsor of the ceremony, shaking hands after the oration

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During Ricardo Bofill’s speech, images of his works and projects were projected

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On the screen, a recorded congratulations speech by the Japanese philosopher and writer Elia Taniguchi

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The rector of the UPC, Daniel Crespo, during his speech

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The Architecture Choir and the UPC Orchestra, ready to perform, shortly before the closing of the ceremony

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) held a ceremony to confer an honorary doctoral degree on Ricardo Bofill Levi, one of the giants of international architecture, at the Santa Maria del Mar basilica in Barcelona on 30 September.

Sep 30, 2021

Ricardo Bofill Levi (Barcelona, 1939) is one of the most influential and internationally renowned Catalan urban planners and architects. He received his initial training at the Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB)of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), the school that has awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in recognition of his career in several contemporary architectural styles, with contributions to both urban planning and housing.

The investiture ceremony was held in the context of the University’s 50th anniversary at the Santa Maria del Mar basilica on Thursday 30 September and was broadcast live on the UPC's YouTube channel. The event was attended by the rector, Daniel Crespo, and the director of the Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB), Félix Solaguren-Beascoa de Corral, who conducted the ceremony and delivered the oration in praise of the Catalan architect.

The proposal to confer an honorary doctoral degree on Bofill, approved by the UPC’s Governing Council on 2 July, has been supported by leading figures from the professional world and academia, such as the architects Paolo Portoghesi, Bjarke Ingels, Kengo Kuma, Benedetta Tagliabue and Thomas Heatherwick, and the academics Francisco Montero, Manuel Blanco and Ivan Cabrera, who are the directors of the schools of Architecture in Seville, Madrid and Valencia, respectively.

50 years of architectural creation worldwide
Ricardo Bofill enrolled at the ETSAB in 1957, when it was located in the Barcelona city centre. As the director of the School has explained, “it was a time of censorship and repression, and that year young Ricardo was arrested and expelled from the University. He was unable to fulfil his desire to study Architecture at his hometown school, the ETSAB.”

His father, Emilio Bofill i Benessat, was an architect and had been a student member of the Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture (GATCPAC). This context determined the career direction of young Ricardo, who moved to Switzerland to continue his studies. He graduated in Urbanism and Architecture at the Haute École du Paysage, d’Ingénierie et d’Architecture in Geneva.

In 1963 he brought together in Barcelona a team of young professionals from a wide range of fields—architecture and urban planning, engineering, sociology, philosophy, literature and cinema—which was the seed of today’s Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA). From their headquarters, located in an old cement factory on the outskirts of Barcelona, and offices in Paris, Montpellier, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, Beijing and Algeria, they have completed a thousand architectural projects of different nature and styles in more than 40 countries worldwide over more than 50 years. The Taller de Arquitectura has undergone a series of practical and rhetorical changes, related partly to the political and social changes of recent years.

In his first artistic stage, Bofill recuperated the characteristic craft elements of traditional Catalan architecture and later dealt with local urban planning problems within the Spanish political and social framework. In that time, he did outstanding works in residential complexes, such as the Gaudí District in Reus, Tarragona; Kafka’s Castle in Sant Pere de Ribes, Barcelona; the Red Wall in Calpe, Alicante; and the Walden 7 apartment building in Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona.

His eagerness to address the urban challenges in developing countries led the architect to move part of his team to Algeria, where he collaborated in urban planning and social housing projects, with the construction of the Houari Boumedienne Agricultural Village in the south-east of the country.

In the 70s he built a team in Paris to carry out several projects for France’s new towns, such as La Petite Cathédrale and La Maison d’Abraxas. At the end of the decade, the Taller was mainly working in France, where they carried out projects such as Les Arcades du Lac and Le Viaduc in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, and the Les Espaces d’Abraxas housing estate in Marne-la-Vallée, among others.

In 2000, the Taller focused its activity in Spain, from where they developed international urban-scale projects. Some of the most relevant are the Place de l’Europe in Luxembourg; the extension of La Castellana in Madrid; the Central Artery in Boston; transport infrastructure such as the Barcelona Airport Terminal 1; the Hotel Vela in the Port of Barcelona; cultural, sports and commercial facilities in Europe, the United States and Asia; social and luxury housing estates; office buildings and corporate headquarters for major companies; etc. Bofill’s Taller is currently working on projects such as the Royal Arts Complex and the Sindalah Island in Saudi Arabia, Chongqing Airport in China and others.

The Taller de Arquitectura and Bofill himself have always relied on technology, construction and mathematics. According to the director of the ETSAB, “an honorary doctoral degree holder must have this profile: they must be a role model in their profession, in their work and, ultimately, in their research work, like a model professor.”

Throughout his career, Bofill has received numerous awards and distinctions, such as the Vittorio de Sica award and the honorary doctoral degree from the universities of Hamburg (Germany) and Metz (France). He has also received recognition from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris, France; the Académie Internationale de Philosophie de l’Art in Bern, Switzerland; and the American Society of Interior Designers in New York; and has been awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi (St George’s Cross) among others. Watch the full ceremony (YouTube)