martedì, ottobre 30, 2007

Madrid, the new Wing of Prado Museum

Madrid, the new Wing of Prado Museum


















The extension of Madrid's great museum, which opens today, involved rebuilding a 16th-century cloister, reports Ellis Woodman
Over the past 30 years, almost every one of the world's foremost metropolitan art galleries has been extended to create extra exhibition space while providing the art-going public with all the education rooms, restaurants and retail opportunities that it increasingly expects.
One notable latecomer to this party has been the gallery that many consider to be the greatest of them all, Madrid's Prado. It has not been for want of trying.
In 1995, it staged an architectural competition to find a design for an extension. More than 700 schemes were submitted, but the jury ultimately had to concede that there simply wasn't enough land available to accommodate its brief satisfactorily. The competition was declared void and the gallery set about trying to secure more space. There weren't many possibilities.
The Prado presents a 650ft frontage to one of Madrid's most heavily trafficked avenues and is book-ended by an essential entrance courtyard at one end and by the sacrosanct Royal Botanical Gardens at the other. The only real opportunity to grow, therefore, was to the rear. The gallery owned a sliver of land between its building and the road that runs along its rear face, but it wasn't enough.
The only way to accommodate all the facilities that were required was to tunnel under the road, making a connection to a new building that would stand on the far side.
There was one obvious place where this could be done – on a plot owned by the neighbouring monastery of San Jerónimo el Real. The gallery reached an agreement that it would buy the land and rehouse the displaced monks in a new building to be constructed alongside.
There was just one problem: a large part of the site was occupied by a 16th-century cloister. It was in an extremely dilapidated state but, none the less, it was a listed monument.
The gallery held a second competition with the stipulation that the cloister would have to be incorporated within the new building. It was won by the grand old man of Spanish architecture, 70-year-old Rafael Moneo. Today, 12 years after the Prado first embarked on the project of building an extension, his scheme is to be opened by the King and Queen of Spain.
The challenge faced by Moneo was significantly compounded by the fact that the steeply sloping ground at the back of the gallery had led to the cloister being constructed on a massive platform built into the hill.
His scheme has involved the radical measure of temporarily dismantling the cloister so that the platform could be demolished and the new building constructed in its place. The cloister was then meticulously reconstructed in exactly its original location and the new building extended upwards to engulf it on two sides.
From the street, therefore, the cloister is entirely hidden from view. What we see is the new structure, built from the unusually small bricks with pencil-thin mortar joints that are so characteristic of Madrid's architecture. The building has something of the appearance of a small palazzo, boasting a windowless, almost fortified lower level and an expansive glazed loggia above.
Moneo's first proposal was for a much more abstract treatment with none of the classical overtones of the final design, but the idea of building next to the 16th-century church proved extremely contentious and the change of approach served as something of a concession to those who opposed it.
The new building houses a suite of temporary galleries beneath the cloister and ranges conservation facilities, offices and print rooms around it. By decanting these facilities from the old building it has been possible to return a significant area to its original use as exhibition space. The first exhibition to be staged in the temporary galleries is a show of the 19th-century art that has always been displayed in a separate institution, but which can now be integrated with the Prado's holdings.
Ultimately, the project might not rank among its architect's most spectacular works, but it answers an extraordinarily taxing set of requirements very persuasively and promises to have a transformative effect on the gallery. Most impressively, perhaps, there is very little about the finished building that suggests what a battle it has been to get it built.

1 commento:

Anonimo ha detto...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you