Architecture of Madrid

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The architecture of Madrid has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets, even though Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; a large number of national museums,[1] and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which completes the shortcomings of the other two museums.[2] Cibeles Palace and Fountain have become the monument symbol of the city.[3][4][5]

The architecture of Madrid reflects a number of styles from various historical periods.

Medieval and Renaissance period[edit]

St. Jerome church, view from the north angle

Very little medieval architecture is preserved in Madrid, and most of it is located inside the Almendra central. Historical documents show that the city was walled and had a castle (the Alcázar) in the same place where the Royal Palace now stands.[citation needed] Among the few preserved medieval buildings are the mudejar towers of San Nicolás and San Pedro el Viejo churches, the palace of Luján family (located in the Plaza de la Villa), the Gothic church of St. Jerome, part of a monastery built by the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century, and the Bishop's Chapel.

Nor has Madrid retained many examples of Renaissance architecture, except for the Cisneros house (one of the buildings flanking the Plaza de la Villa), the Bridge of Segovia and the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, whose austere exterior gives no idea of the magnificent art treasures inside.[citation needed]

Habsburgs transform Madrid into a capital city[edit]

When Philip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561, a series of reforms began, reforms that aimed to transform the town into a capital city worthy of the name. These reforms were embodied in the Plaza Mayor, designed by Juan de Herrera (author of El Escorial) and Juan Gómez de Mora, characterized by its symmetry and austerity, as well as the new Alcázar, who would become the second most impressive royal palace of the kingdom.[citation needed]

Many of the historic buildings of Madrid were built during the reign of the Habsburgs. The material used was mostly brick and the humble façades contrast with the elaborate interiors. Juan Gómez de Mora built notable buildings such as Casa de la Villa, Prison of the Court, the Palace of the Councils and Royal Convent of La Encarnación. The Buen Retiro Palace was a vanished work by Alonso Carbonel, today on the grounds of the Buen Retiro Park, with beautiful rooms decorated by the best artists in times of Philip IV (Velázquez, Carducci, Zurbarán). Imperial College become an important institution run by the Jesuits, and the model dome of the church would be imitated in all Spain, thanks to the cheap materials used in its construction.[citation needed]

Canalejas Square

Pedro de Ribera was one of the most important architects in Madrid of the pre-Bourbon era. Ribera introduced Churrigueresque architecture to Madrid, characterized by ornamental overload on their covers, as an altarpiece. The History Museum, the Cuartel del Conde-Duque, the church of Montserrat and the Bridge of Toledo are the best examples.[citation needed]

The Bourbons[edit]

The arrival of the Bourbons marked a new era in the city. The burning of the Alcazar of Madrid served as an excuse for the first Bourbon, Philip V of Spain to build a palace on its foundations, a palace more in line with the French taste. Filippo Juvarra, an architect specializing in the construction of royal palaces, was chosen to design the new palace. His design was inspired by Bernini's design rejected for the Louvre Palace in Paris. Juvarra died before the work began, and the project was substantially modified by his disciple Giovainni Battista Sacchetti. Philip V tried to complete the vision of urbanization of Madrid initiated by King Philip II, which included a bridge spanning a large ravine, linking The Royal Alcázar to the southern part of town. Philip V would never see the bridge even begin and neither would several of his successors. It wasn't built until the 19th century and is called the Segovia Viaduct. Other buildings of the time were the St. Michael's Basilica and the Church of Santa Bárbara.

King Charles III of Spain was more interested in beautifying the city. He was an enlightened monarch and endeavored to convert Madrid into one of the great European capitals.[citation needed] He pushed forward the construction of the Prado Museum (designed by Juan de Villanueva). The building was originally intended to serve as a Natural Science Museum. Charles III was also responsible for design of the Puerta de Alcalá, the Royal Observatory (Juan de Villanueva), the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande (Francesco Sabatini), the Casa de Correos in Puerta del Sol, the Real Casa de la Aduana (Francesco Sabatini) and the General Hospital by Sabatini (now houses the Reina Sofia Museum and Royal Conservatory of Music). The Paseo del Prado, surrounded by gardens and decorated with neoclassical statues inspired by mythological gods, is an example of urban planning. The Duke of Berwick ordered Ventura Rodríguez the construction of the Liria Palace.

Subsequently, the Peninsular War, the loss of colonies in the Americas, and the continuing coups prevented the city from developing interesting architecture (Royal Theatre,the National Library of Spain, the Palace of the Senate and the Congress). In the slums of Madrid during this time, a kind of substandard house was developed that today has a special historical charm: an example is the corralas, which currently still exist in the neighborhood of Lavapiés.


The Gran Vía showcases patterns ranging from Vienna Secession style, Plateresque, Neo-Mudéjar, Art Deco and others

From the late 19th century until the Civil War, Madrid modernized and built new neighborhoods and monuments, both in the capital and in neighboring towns. In the mid-19th century the expansion of Madrid developed under the Plan Castro, resulting in the neighborhoods of Salamanca, Argüelles and Chamberí. Arturo Soria conceived the linear city and built the first few kilometers of the road that bears his name, which embodies the idea. Ricardo Velázquez Bosco designed the Crystal Palace and the Palace of Velázquez in the Retiro Park. Secundino Zuazo built the Palace of Music and the Casa de las Flores. The Bank of Spain was designed by Eduardo Adaro and Severiano Sainz de la Lastra. Meanwhile, the Marquis of Cubas began the Almudena Cathedral project, which was to be a neo-Gothic church with neo-Romanesque cloister. Alberto de Palacio designed Atocha Station. Las Ventas Bullring was built in the early 20th century, as the Market of San Miguel (Cast-Iron style). Finally, Delicias Railway Station is the oldest example of this kind of infrastructure according to the model of Henri de Dion.[citation needed]

The Neo-Mudéjar was a widely spread style in Madrid in the 19th century; sometimes combined with Gothic revival, it was captured in religious buildings suchs as the Church of San Fermín de los Navarros or the Church of la Paloma as well as in civil ones.[6]

Modernismo (the Spanish expression of Art-Nouveau) was introduced in Madrid in the early 20th-century, first with a timid nod in iron balconies (such as the house of Tomás y Salvany) and then with markedly modernista buildings such as the José Grases Riera's Palacio Longoria or the Manuel Medrano's House of the Marquise of Villamejor.[7]

Antonio Palacios, described by Fernando Chueca as the "most powerful figure in the Spanish architecture of the first third of the 20th century and the most difficult figure to label and fit under conventional parametres",[8] left a unavoidable imprint in the city architectural history, building a series of eclectic buildings. Some examples are the Palace of Communication (Palacio de Comunicaciones), the Fine Arts Circle of Madrid (Círculo de Bellas Artes) and the Río de La Plata Bank.

Palacete Cort
Cine Doré

Also the construction of Gran Vía began in the early 20th century, with the task of freeing the old town. They used different styles that evolved over time: The Metropolis building is built in French style and the Edificio Grassy is eclectic, while Telefónica Building is art deco, with baroque ornaments. The Carrión (or Capitol) Building is expressionist, and the Palace of the Press, another example of art deco.

The Banco Bilbao was a notable case of late eclecticism in the 1920s, while the Palacete Cort and the Cine Doré were examples of late Secession in the city.[9]

Modesto López Otero, adept to historicist lines, projected the notable La Unión y el Fénix Español building, influenced by North-American architects practicing the Mission Style in vogue by that time in the United States.[10]

The Civil War severely damaged the city including University City, which was one of the most beautiful architectural complexes of the time.[citation needed] Subsequently, unscrupulous mayors[citation needed] would destroy the old town and the Ensanche, in a city which until the war was a good example of urban planning and architecture. Numerous blocks of flats with no value were built.[citation needed]

Spanish economic development[edit]

In the first years of the Francoist dictatorship, the regime adhered to some elements of the totalitarian architectural language, with a folkish mythification of the works of Juan de Herrera and Juan de Villanueva, captured in buildings such as the Luis Gutiérrez Soto's Cuartel del Ejército del Aire, reminiscent of El Escorial. During these years, in the Spanish case the reactionary and Catholic conservative matrix largely prevailed over a purely Fascist architecture in the sense of the Roger Griffin's established link between modernity and Fascism. This sense of modernity was nonetheless later introduced at some point, with buildings such as the Cabrero & Aburto's Casa Sindical or the headquarters for the Alto Estado Mayor de la Defensa, by Gutiérrez Soto.[11]

The Casa Sindical, often linked to the works of Giuseppe Terragni.[12]

With the advent of democracy and Spanish economic development, skyscrapers appeared in the city such as Torre Picasso, designed by Minoru Yamasaki; Torres Blancas and Torre BBVA (both by Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza) and in the 1990s, the Gate of Europe, architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Moreover, in the 1990s construction was completed of the Cathedral of the Almudena. The National Auditorium of Music is a work of 1988.

In the 21st century, Madrid faces new challenges in its architecture. An old industrial warehouse is the Interpretation Centre of New Technologies, and the CaixaForum Madrid (Herzog & de Meuron) was a former power station.

Under the government of Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón the four tallest skyscrapers in Spain were built, and together form the Cuatro Torres Business Area (CTBA). The Manzanares River is crossed by new edge bridges, and work started on the International Convention Centre (Mansilla+Tuñón), an original round building, whose works remain paralyzed by the crisis. Caja Mágica (Dominique Perrault) sport centre was also built and the Reina Sofía Museum has been expanded with the help of Jean Nouvel.

Madrid Barajas International Airport Terminal 4, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers (winning them the 2006 Stirling Prize), and TPS Engineers, (winning them the 2006 IStructE Award for Commercial Structures) was inaugurated on 5 February 2006. Terminal 4 is one of the world's largest terminal areas, with an area of 760,000 square metres (8,180,572 square feet) in two separate terminals: a main building, T4 (470,000 square metres), and satellite building, T4S (290,000 square metres), which are separated by approximately 2.5 km (2 mi).[citation needed] The new terminal is meant to give passengers a stress-free start to their journey. This is managed through careful use of illumination, available by glass panes instead of walls and numerous domes in the roof which allow natural light to pass through. With the new addition, Barajas is designed to handle 70 million passengers annually.

Terminal 4 check in hall in 2008


The streets of Madrid have many outdoor sculptures. The Museum of Outdoor Sculpture, located in the Paseo de la Castellana, is dedicated to abstract works, among which the Sirena Varada (Strander Mermaid) by Eduardo Chillida.

Since the 18th century, the Paseo del Prado is decorated with an iconographic program with classical monumental fountains: the Fuente de la Alcachofa (Fountain of the Artichoke), the Cuatro Fuentes (Four Fountains), the Fuente de Neptuno (Fountain of Neptune), the Fuente de Apolo (Fountain of Apollo) and the Fuente de Cibeles (Fountain of Cybele, also known as Fountain of Cibeles), all designed by Ventura Rodríguez.

The equestrian sculptures are particularly important,[citation needed] starting chronologically with two designed in the 17th century: the statue of Philip III, in the Plaza Mayor by Giambologna, and the statue of Philip IV, in the Plaza de Oriente (undoubtedly the most important statue of Madrid,[citation needed] projected by Velázquez and built by Pietro Tacca with scientific advice of Galileo Galilei).

Many areas of the Buen Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro) are really sculptural scenography: among them are The Fallen Angel by Ricardo Bellver, and the Monument to Alfonso XII, designed by José Grases Riera.

In another vein are the neon advertising signs, some of which have acquired a historic range and are legally protected, such as Schweppes in Plaza de Callao or Tío Pepe in the Puerta del Sol, recently retired from its location for the restoration of the building.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arquitectura. Edificios de los Museos Estatales". 25 January 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Geography of Madrid". Easy expat. 11 August 2006.
  3. ^ "Plaza de Cibeles | in English". Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Madrid's Palacio de Cibeles Renovated Into Jaw-Dropping CentroCentro Cultural Center | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building". Inhabitat. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Cibeles Fountain – Tourism in Madrid". Archived from the original on 18 December 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  6. ^ San Antonio Gómez, Carlos de (2008). "La arquitectura de Madrid: de la Restauración al fin de siglo". Conferencias sobre Arquitectura y espacio urbano de Madrid en el siglo XIX (PDF). p. 90.
  7. ^ Navascués Palacio, Pedro (1976). "Opciones modernistas en la arquitectura madrileña" (PDF). Pro-Arte (5): 29–33.
  8. ^ Pérez Rojas, Francisco Javier (1985). "Antonio Palacios y la arquitectura de su época" (PDF). Villa de Madrid (83): 4.
  9. ^ San Antonio Gómez, Carlos de (1998). El Madrid del 27. Arquitectura y vanguardia: 1918-1936 (PDF). pp. 19–20. ISBN 84-451-1742-4.
  10. ^ San Antonio Gómez 1998, pp. 21-22.
  11. ^ López Díaz 2014, pp. 244–249.
  12. ^ López Díaz, Jesús (2014). "El papel del fascismo y el falangismo en la recepción de la modernidad en la arquitectura española contemporánea". Anales de Historia del Arte. Madrid: Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 24: 248–249. doi:10.5209/rev_ANHA.2014.v24.48703.

External links[edit]

Media related to Architecture of Madrid at Wikimedia Commons