PALACIO DE CRISTAL
The Palacio de Cristal (“Crystal Palace”) in Madrid, Spain was built in 1887 and designed by Spanish architect, Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. Bosco, also an archaeologist and art teacher, used ceramics to enhance the facades of the buildings he designed. This style came to be known as “Regionalist Architecture” in which glazed pieces of brightly colored ceramics were used to enhance the glass and metal framework. The Palacio de Cristal is located in Buen Retiro Park and was originally used to exhibit plants from the Philippines, which, at the time, was a Spanish Colony. However, the Spanish-American War interrupted the importation of those plants, and the building became an art exhibition hall. The Reina Sofia Museum, an 18th century hospital, that was remodeled and converted into a museum, organizes the exhibitions.
The Palacio’s glass and metal framework is set on a brick base and the building is shaped like a Greek cross. Its cupola is over 22 meters (72 feet) high. The entrance portico, staircase, and columns are all made of stone. The building’s architecture was influenced by Joseph Paxton who designed the Crystal Palace and Kew Gardens’ Palm House in London. Like its English counterparts, the Palacio was designed to be dismantled, moved and re-constructed on another site. However, the building has never been moved and remains at its original site next to a large man-made lake where visitors can rent boats to get a closer view of the terrapins, black swans, geese and ducks that make the lake their home. The 321-acre park is open year-’round, except on Tuesdays, and is home to over 15,000 varieties of trees.
The Palacio was the first non-industrial building in Spain to be constructed of iron and glass and was built in only five months. Wrought iron in the shape of angels’ faces decorates the upper ledge of the building; these decorations also serve as supports for the rain gutters. The ceramic tiles surrounding the perimeter of the building were made by Daniel Zuloaga, and are adorned with flowers, dragons and stars.
Roman Ondák, a Slovakian-born artist, is the most recent artist to have his work exhibited at the Palacio de Cristal. Ondák’s creations are notable for their grand scale and specific purposes. Scene (the name of Ondák’s creation) was constructed and designed specifically for the Palacio de Cristal. It is an elevated walkway that is accessed from the inside of the building but which encircles the outside of the building. A brochure describing the walkway notes, “this walkway… offers all its visitors the opportunity of a new perception of the space, for the Palacio de Cristal can now be looked into from the outside in a way not previously permitted by its architecture.”
The Palacio de Cristal has only needed to be restored twice. Once in 1975, when an addition at the back of the building was removed and enhancements were made which allowed the rooms to be used as exhibit halls, and then from 1994 – 1998. This restoration reinforced the metal structures, updated the security systems, and repaired some of the ceramic tiles.