Published  30/11/-0001

New Prado

New Prado

Architect Rafael Moneo in Spain is not one to run for the architects’ Graffiti prize, that is, the practice of erecting extraordinary, mind-boggling, gobsmacking monuments to one self across the major cities of the world. The new extension to the Prado Gallery in Madrid now reveals itself as an exceptionally well-groomed edifice in the tradition of unassuming architectural gravitas of the late twentieth /early twenty-first century. The building contains exceptional achievements in the field of civil engineering and urban design. This £100 million extension relieves the main, historic galleries here of all the congestion of the ancillary activities of the modern gallery, such as restoration workshops (on the top level), the auditorium, the ever-expanding gallery shopping area, the cafeteria and the bookshop. The building will not open until October, but then at last the whole Prado will come into its own again. It is a pity that the wing was not in fact open in time for the superb Tintoretto exhibition now shown (which inevitably displaced works from the permanent collection to make room for its own. Studio International will review the entire project realised, in October, once the public have provided the inevitable feedback. In the meantime we have to recognise, in Moneo’s sleek but non-picturesque solution, what Colin St John Wilson famously called 'The Other Tradition of Modern Architecture'.

Wilson, now 86, has been renowned for his pioneering work in re-assessing modernism, and the heroic alternative architects (including Alvar Aalto) who sought to 'humanise' the mandatory prescriptions of the modernist old guard of Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe, et al. But last year Wilson, just prior to Moneo’s Prado, had been able to crown his achievement at the British Library a decade ago (an epic labour of steadfast resistance plus accommodation to unremittant bureaucracy), with his own heroic Pallant Gallery in Chichester, which shares with Moneo’s triumph the elegant precedent of a brilliant vindication of Modernism. Studio International will revisit Wilson’s triumph again in October, at the same time as Moneo’s achievement. Moneo says that he is 'liberating the old building by the right scale of intervention'. Wilson in turn has done precisely that in Chichester, with his elegant addition to Pallant House.

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