Our proposal for the old Royal Hall of the Buen Retiro Palace is the result of a reflection on the historical reality of the building – now very modified – and the temporality that implies all new action. The building that we know today is the result of multiple transformations since the nineteenth century that make it difficult to refer to an original historical moment. In the first place, we can not properly speak of “a” building, but of the fragment of a much larger complex, the North Corridor of the Palace that survived the passage of time, a longitudinal structure articulating two large open spaces, Main Square and Plaza Big.
When a fragment is separated from the whole, it seems difficult to grant it category of protagonist, as an isolated architectural body. It is now, when becoming part of the campus of the Prado Museum, that paradoxically, this solitary body will once again find a shared sense, in this case with the Juan de Villanueva building, the expansion of Los Jerónimos and the Casón. The horizontal platform that from the seventeenth century to the end of the XIX linked the two squares disappeared will mark the level of the new place of access to the museum. The elimination of the different bodies attached to the South facade over the years, is a fundamental condition that guides the subsequent project decisions.
A new volume is separated from the three façade panels making visible the hitherto hidden southern façade of the historic Hall of Realms and generating a covered outdoor space that connects physically and visually the access from the square in front of the street Felipe IV with the Terrace to the north. The public entrance takes place at the point where the height of the street is closer to that of the zocalo, which implies a change of the axis of access to the building, in a conscious decision that shifts the center of gravity of the same towards the East. The mansard roof added the twentieth century, introduced a notable alteration and distortion of the volume that originally had the austere palace of the Austrias.
Its replacement by a longitudinal covering to two waters will allow to recover adequate proportions in relation to the facades, the height of cornice and the spiers on the towers of corner. The reduction of the exhibition space under cover that implies this action is compensated with the new galleries in the first and second plants incorporated in the new enlargement. In the semi-basement plant are located the loading and unloading areas, warehouses, service areas, facilities, and underground communication with the Casón building.
The ground floor is mainly intended for areas of public use such as the reception hall, cafe-restaurant, shop and access to the exhibition area by means of the 19th-century Staircase of Honor to be restored, or through the new vertical core of Communications located at the eastern end of the building. The first floor, protagonist of the central space that gives name to the whole, will maintain the arrangement of the sequence of three large rooms, recovering a balcony that evokes the one that was lost according to the descriptions of the original building. Finally the floor under cover, is dedicated entirely to showrooms.
As if it were a contemporary urban triptych, the unexpected support of exhibitions and activities will also symbolically transform the new image of the old Palacio del Buen Retiro and its incorporation into the Prado Museum. It will act as a foyer or flashlight open to the sky, forming a public meeting space. The intervention in the old Hall of Realms will appear in the neighborhood of Alfonso XII as a result of the interpretation of the building’s own history and the incorporation of new architectures that emerge from the emulation of that one: an always unfinished process of transformations that reflect the Dialogue between memory and invention. Enrique Sobejano Fuensanta Nieto. Sorce by Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.
- Location: Madrid, Spain
- Architects: Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
- Project Architect: Carlos Ballesteros
- Project Team: Simone Lorezon, Valeria Polato, Adrián Rodríguez, Ahmed El Shihy, Beatriz Villanueva, Juan Carlos Redondo
- Restorer: Ana Ordóñez Martínez
- Structure: schlaich bergermann partner, sbp gmbh BAC engineering consultancy group
- Facilities: Werner Sobek London Ltd
- Property: Museo Nacional del Prado
- Surface area: 9,207 m2
- Year: 2016
- Images: Fran Mateos, Courtesy of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
Article by Marco Rinaldi