Cellular Urbanism: Taller d’Arquitectura & the City in Space


 “I invite you to the club of mistakes, to the self-criticism, I invite you to the club of renovation, of the creativity. I invite you to invent the new”

Ricardo Bofill, to the students of the AA, 5 March 2015


Raül P. Avilla Royo:

The City in Space was a research carried out by Taller d’Arquitectura Ricardo Bofill, during the years 1968-1975. Its objective was to produce affordable social housing as an alternative to the council housing developed by the military government of Spain in the late 60s. During that time, Taller, a multidisciplinary workshop lead by a young Ricardo Bofill in his early 30s, produced six buildings (Gaudí Neighbourhood, Kafka’s Castle, Xanadú, the Red Wall and Walden 7), one experimental project (model M37), one unbuilt project (City in Space, in Moratalaz) and the book ‘Towards a Formalization of the City in Space’. These projects represent an experimental process and an intense research project over seven years.

The research explored rigid movements applied systematically to a cell, leading to the  generation of masterplans that are based on the cellular design and repetition of domestic space. As a result, a set of buildings and theoretical models were developed. These projects were all part of developing the same method within different specific contexts, always in the periphery of the city.

Taller d’Arquitectura positioned itself between utopia and realism, entering the problem of affordable housing trough the questions of a minimum habitable cell, industrialization and urban tissues. Four decades after of the end of the City in Space, this study analyses its reasons, methodology and outcomes in relationship to ideas of the minimum dwelling, the role of the periphery, affordable housing or industrialization, which are ongoing debates in contemporary cities.

Design Exercise

The City in Space was a result of an undesired situation: the insufficient quality of the council housing, which in turn was a response to the massive migrations from the countryside to the cities and the growth of slums.

In order to offer an alternative, Taller developed a new methodology. Therefore, there was not a search of a formal result, but the form of the building was a consequence of a process, that embraced certain ideas about the city, society and housing.

The ‘Theory of Isometries’ started by defining the element that would be repeated: the cell, as the minimum inhabitable space; and the user, for whom the house should be affordable. The internal definition of the cell and its aggregation with others de ned the relationships that could take place between the inhabitants of the building.

The design proposal starts by the reconsideration of the following questions, taking from Taller the idea of the ‘cell’ as the smallest unit of the system.

Who is the user?

What does ‘cell’ mean?

How is it related to other cells?

How is it inhabited?

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