‘Les espaces d’Abraxas’ second of the two ‘grands ensembles’ of Noisy-le-Grand designed and built by Ricardo Bofill. The project design was entrusted to Bofill in 1978. The set was inaugurated in 1983. Entire complex consists of three buildings: Theatre to the West, the Arch in the center and Palacio to the East. Palacio is 18 floors high building of an orthogonal form. It consists of four staircases, each hosting about 250 apartments. The Theatre in the form of a half cylinder evokes the shapes of ancient Greek theaters. It consists of a dozen staircases and hosts twenty apartments per each. The Arch has only two staircases that join the 7th floor to form a monumental arch. ‘L’espaces d’Abraxas’ are housing ca. 600 appartments.
Ricardo Bofill was born in Barcelona in 1939. He was only 24 when he founded an interdisciplinary agency ‘Taller de Arquitectura’ consisting of architects and engineers but also sociologists, historians and philosophers. Their aim was to search for answers to current issues of urban development. Inspired as much by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1929) as the African architecture, members of the ‘Taller de Arquitectura’ designed social housing in Spain, which gave Bofill international fame. Another important figure for Bofill, who tried to revive neo-classical style, was French baroque architect François Mansart (1598-1666). But Bofill’s intention was not to simply copy the beauties of antiquity but to transpose them by incorporating them into local particularities and using modern technologies.
Ricardo Bofill designed a dozen buildings in Paris, mostly in the New Towns at the outskirts of the capital. At Noisy-le-Grand using his usual neo-classical vocabulary he created some kind of postmodern manifesto in the form of spectacular theatrical set. It is considered Bofill’s response to the mass social housing. He formulates his response in three points: the ‘mixed function’ the ‘reference to human scale’ (sic!) and the ‘quality and aesthetics of public spaces’. However this architecture is considered highly controversial. If the precast concrete in delicate pink sandstone makes the best effect in the sun, it becomes hardly acceptable during bad weather, giving the whole an austere appearance that earned the complex the nickname of ‘Alcatraz’ .
In 2006 the town planned to demolish the 600 apartments of Palacio, but the project caused a stir among the population of ‘L’Espaces d’Abraxas’. The anti-demolition Collective informed Ricardo Bofill about a possible destruction.