Lonely Planet Writer

Madrid’s Prado Museum to get Norman Foster-designed extension in King's old residence

Madrid’s Prado Museum is to get a €30 million extension in a 17th-century building renovated by star architect Norman Foster.

Prado Museum, Madrid.
Prado Museum, Madrid. Image by Meißner/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The Hall of Realms, close to the main museum building, was originally part of the Buen Retiro palace, built as a second residence for King Felipe IV. Little else remains of the palace now. Last year the Prado acquired the building, which has also housed Spain’s Army Museum.

Foster’s redesign is a collaboration with Spanish architect Carlos Rubio. The museum said that the planned refurbishment “respects and values what is already there, adjusting it to the necessities of our times”. The aim is to open up the southern side of the building, creating a huge atrium. The original balconies will be retained.  “A new roof will harvest energy from integrated solar cells, give natural light to the galleries below and cantilever as a shade to protect the southern facade,” said Foster and Partners. Foster said that he was proud to play a part in this new phase of the Prado’s expansion.

The Prado is one of the world’s premier art galleries, with more than 7000 paintings held in the collection (although only around 1500 are currently on display). Highlights include the royal paintings of Velázquez, Goya’s Las pinturas negras (Black Paintings), and art from all across Europe. The western wing of the Prado was completed in 1785, as the neoclassical Palacio de Villanueva. Originally conceived as a house of science, it later served as a cavalry barracks for Napoleon’s troops during their occupation of Madrid between 1808 and 1813. In 1814 King Fernando VII decided to use the palace as a museum, although his purpose was more about finding a way of storing the hundreds of royal paintings gathering dust. Five years later the Museo del Prado opened with 311 Spanish paintings on display.