Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Rafael Moneo has done something very odd, even unorthodox, to the Prado, Madrid’s world-renowned city-centre art gallery,” The Guardian newspaper reported in an article dated May 1, 2007. Over the past five years, the architect has overseen construction of a major new extension to the 18th-century neoclassical building that is surprisingly serious and well-crafted. “Flying in the face of 21st-century orthodoxy, he has avoided the temptation to design an ‘iconic’ (in other words, showy) gallery that might have rivaled Frank Gehry’s phantasmagorical Bilbao Guggenheim,” said the London newspaper.

"Those 'cool-seekers', as Madrid guidebooks have it, who are hoping for an all-singing, all-dancing extension to the Prado may well be disappointed by Moneo's quietly heroic work. Here, an architect of the first order has chosen to let the art that will be on display steal the show. What he has created over long years is a building of immense skill, craft, solidity and intelligence, which redefines a part of Madrid's city centre and makes the Prado itself a far more immediate gallery than it has been for some while."

The expansion was sorely needed. A few years ago I had the unpleasant experience of waiting in a v-e-r-y slow-moving line for upwards of an hour, outside -- in the pouring rain -- while their seriously inadequate and decidedly officious post-9/11 security efforts were exerted -- one visitor at a time – in a tiny log-jam of a foyer. Once inside, the experience was absolutely worth that discomfort, but how lovely I imagine it will be now that the space -- and undoubtedly the security process – have been enhanced. I so enjoy the sense of luxury about Madrid and about the Prado -- that dreary cattle-call entry was disappointingly unwelcoming and incompatible with that sense of elegance.

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