Thursday, May 11, 2017

Madrid Architecture

You won't find the name "Madrid" in the older histories of Spain. Unlike places like Valencia, founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC, or Cádiz, founded around 1104 BC by the Phoenicians, Madrid's origins are much more recent. Located on the present site of Madrid was a Muslim fortress and after the Christian capture of Toledo, it became a minor city. In the year 1530 it had around 4,000 inhabitants. In June 1561, Phillip II moved his court from Valladolid to Madrid making it the new capital of Spain.

Yesterday I took a walk down Gran Via to the Paseo del Prado and took photos of some interesting buildings on the way. The overall impression of Madrid, by the way, is of the color white with some fewer buildings in grey or beige. I don't know what most of these buildings are, I just found them interesting. The first one looks rather a Spanish version of art deco:

This lovely building, in cream and white for a change, has acquired a gazebo for a hat:

Like a wedding cake with an iron dome:

A couple of interesting ones: another wedding cake with dome, this time with a sculpture, and the other with a very pretty clock tower:

Yet another, but this time with two iron domes and more sculptures, the nearer one an archer:

This one takes the cake, I think. Instead of a wedding cake, it is like a Greek temple with an iron dome, decorated with gold leaf. I looked this one up. It was built for the Metropolis insurance company in 1911:

Nearby is this far more modest version of the same idea, minus the dome and gold leaf:

This enormous building, covering about two city blocks, was indisposed:

When not swaddled in tarpaulins, this is the Bank of Spain, where they keep all that gold and silver they got from Mexico and Peru:

I ended my expedition on the Paseo del Prado where I visited the Naval Museum. I'll save that for another post, but let me just illustrate the Paseo first. This really is one of the most magnificent boulevards I have ever seen, even moreso than the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The Paseo del Prado consists of a large, five-lane street going in one direction:

Then there is a large park area:

Those three shots are a panorama. Then, on the other side, there are the five lanes of traffic going the other way:

Then there is another, smaller grassy divider and on the other side of that, yet another two lanes going in the same direction in front of some government buildings including the Naval Museum. Every couple of blocks there are big roundabouts with very large ornamental fountains. This is one of them, the Plaza de Cibeles (a Phrygian goddess) with the City Hall on the other side:

My photo barely shows the fountain, so here is a photo taken from the web:

The Paseo del Prado was laid out in the 18th century and was probably, at that time, the most spectacular street in the world. Today it is rather a Mecca for art-lovers as three great museums front on it: the Prado itself, of course, with its extraordinary collection of Goyas, El Grecos, Velazquez, Bosch and a host of others, and the two newer museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with its collection of Italian primitives and 20th century art and the Reina Sofía with its impressionists, expressionists and the great 20th-century masterpiece, the Guernica of Picasso.

Still a pretty spectacular street. I am rather stumped to find a suitable envoi for this post! So let's try some Spanish marching music for going down the street. This is El Turuta written by Roman de San Jose, director of the band of the Asturias Infantry:


Will Wilkin said...

Thank you Bryan, for the lovely pics of Spanish architecture. For years I've been saying that when dig up my contemporary USA, they'll conclude from the "architecture" that this was a very Dark Age. Your tour of real architecture shows there used to be a concept of beauty and public spaces. Builders once had pride and even responsibility for their long-term impact on the public space. No more, its all disposable shoe-boxes to give maximum (imported) product showroom floor space for the minimum investment.

Bryan Townsend said...

Oh yes, quite so!

Incidentally, all the buildings I took pictures of on Gran Via are fairly modern, dating from the later 19th and early 20th century. Other parts of Madrid, such as the Plaza Mayor, are all 17th century. The Paseo del Prado is 18th century.

Anonymous said...

Colour is a superb way to create these different areas.

Bryan Townsend said...

Most of the buildings in Madrid seem to be white, but I may have missed your meaning.