Revealed: Norman Foster’s Prado sketchbook

UK architect shows EL PAÍS images of his initial ideas for extension of famous Madrid museum

English architect Norman Foster is no stranger to Spain with previous projects in the country including Barcelona’s Torre de Collserola, the Bilbao metro and the Valencia Congress Center. In 2009, Manchester-born Foster also won Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts for his life’s work.

The architect's sketch for the extension of Madrid's Prado Museum.
The architect's sketch for the extension of Madrid's Prado Museum.Norman Foster

Now the world-renowned architect has been chosen, along with Madrid architect Carlos Rubio, to oversee a 2,500-square meter extension of the Prado Museum which has a price tag of €30 million.

For the project, the 81-year-old will oversee the restoration and transformation of the Hall of Realms - a 17th-century building close to the main museum building, and formerly the home of the Spanish Army Museum.

Foster and Rubio beat out architecture firms led by Eduardo Souto de Moura, Rem Koolhaas, Cruz y Ortiz, Nieto Sobejano, Chipperfield, Gluckman and Garcés De Seta Bonet, winning control over the important project.

The Prado has to be deeply connected to the city and the buildings around it
Norman Foster

In a sketch outlining the project, Foster highlights some of his key ideas for the Prado extension, including a restoration of the façade of the Hall of Realms as “a reminder of its past history” and the need to create “state-of-the art” galleries which are “tuneable for natural light or black out for photos or works on paper.”

Key details of the new extension remain to be decided upon, with one of the most controversial being the possibility of the extension housing Picasso’s painting Guernica, which is now in the Reina Sofía museum.

In an interview with El País, Norman Foster – who once planned to set up his architecture foundation in Madrid – said “we explored the possibility [the painting] might end up in the Hall of Realms”. But he said that decision was not up to him.

Foster previously submitted a proposal for the extension of the Prado with architect Rafael Moneo at the end of the 1990s, although that bid failed.

“We have changed the focus but kept to the basic principles. The Prado was built with the philosophy of closeness to the people, and we are trying to return to its roots as a historical complex. For me, that means creating empathy with the people who use its spaces. It has to be deeply connected to the city and the buildings around it, without giving up on being a modern art gallery.”

English version by George Mills.


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