Calle Alcalá, 62, in a world of turmoil a heaven of peace, this is the Casa Árabe created from an initiative in July 2006 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the Spanish Agency for International Development, the autonomous communities of Madrid and Andalusia and the town councils of Madrid and Cordoba.The main goals of Casa Árabe, with headquarters in Madrid and Cordoba, are to strengthen bilateral and multilateral policies, to promote economical, cultural and educational relations, as well as supporting the development of training and knowledge on the Arab and Muslim world
It is a beautiful building a former school, and now a wonderful additon to the Alcala St architecture.it has a wonderful bookstore of the arab/spanish world.
The Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación building on Avenida de la Cuidad de Barcelona will almost certainly be the first bit of architecture to catch your eye if you arrive in Madrid on the airport bus or by train (once you are outside the wonderful Atocha station).
With its imposing frontage and its soaring statues on the roof it was built as a minstry building between 1883 and 1897.
Walk round the back..along Calle Claudio Moyano...and you'll see its azulejos decoration and panels.
Look at the railings too. They have interesting, and alternating columns...one a classical 'column capital, the nest a sub-Roman lady's head.
A couple of lovely examples of azulejos tilework can be found in the equally lovely El Retiro park.
The Palacio de Velazquez was built in 1883 for a mining exhibition: its exterior has beautiful, mainly blue-and-white geometric tilework.
The Palacio de Cristal was built in 1887 as a winter garden full of exotic flowers. Look above and below its windows, and you'll see detailed tilework of foliage, flowers, birds and beasts.
It's well worth seeking out both buildings as you wander through El Retiro.
Madrid streets (at least those I saw) are mostly signed with azulejos tilework.
This was very useful, because it helped me learn a bit more Spanish as well as keeping my place on my map.
In case you were wondering, 'sombrerete' means a 'bonnet'...presumably a sunhat.
'Azulejos' comes form the Arabic word 'zellige' and means a sort of painted and tin-glazed ceramic tilework.
I saw quite a lot in Portugal, and Spain has it too: in fact the Moors introduced it to Spain first, and then it travelled to Portugal. Azulejos tiling has been around since the 1400s.
I did not see a huge amount of azulejos in Madrid but I did come across a few good examples.
The Farmacia Leon, on Calle de Leon in the Huertas/Las Lettres district) has several lovely blue-and-white panels showing the eponymous lion and various 'Medieval' pharmacy-related scenes.
I liked the small tilework details on the frontages of some buildings. Usually very subtle, but they added greatly to the exterior appearance.
The 'mudejares' were the Muslims who remained in Spain after it was re-conquered in and became a Christian country. Many were hugely skilled in architectural techniques, and the term 'mudejar' refers to buildings in that style, most prevalent during the 12th-16th centuries (1100s to 1500s).
Mudejar buildings have brick as their main material and have a geometric character, with ornamental brickwork and/or tilework, carved wood and carved plaster.
There are many ancient examples of this type of architecture across Spain but Madrid has only two remaining ancient mudejar buildings (or partial buildings). They are the bell towers of Iglesia San Pedro El Viejo and Iglesia San Nicholas de los Servitas.
I only managed to visit San Pedro. Although the church itself was closed, the bell-tower (mid 1300s) is worth a look (especially if you have a decent zoom lens or binoculars to hand). The present church building largely dates from the 1400s, although there was a church on the site in at least 1202. The interior was restored and changed in the 1600s.
You'll find San Pedro to the south of Plaza de la Villa, on Calle de Nuncio.
...you are likely to see in Madrid is to be found in the rather lovely El Retiro park.
The Ermito de San Pelayo y San Isidoro stands at one corner of the lovely El Retiro park. Although my guidebook suggests that this is its original spot, Spanish Wiki states that the church actually stood in Avila and its remains were moved to the park during the 1800s.
I thin Wiki is quite probably right. It states that in 1884 the ruins were sold to the Spanish government by one Emilio Rotondo Nicolau. They were first placed outside the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid and then removed to El Retiro in 1897.
The fact that the apse faces south, rather than east, is confirmation that the ruins are not in their original position.
Whether from Avila or not, it is certain that the original church dates from the early 1100s. Just one carved capital remains, along with part of the apse and an arch.
El Retiro is a lovely park indeed, and it is worth wandering through to find this set of ruins..if only because they are quite probably the oldest bit of architecture you'll see in Madrid (apart from the Murella Arabe).
You'll find the ruins in the north-east corner of the park, near the entrance at the junction of Calle de O'Donnell and Avenida de Menendez Pelayo.
The building which houses the Sociedad General de Autores Y Editores ...the Palacia Longoria...is a mass of melting white twiddliness. Apparently it was inspired by Gaudi's work in Barcelona and is of the school of 'Modernist' architecture.
The Palacia Longoria was built between 1902 and 1904, for the financier Javier Gonzalez Longoria. Its exterior is wonderful. It seems that inside there is a lovely stained-glass dome but as the interior is only accessible (unless you have business there) on the first Monday in October, chances are that you (like me) won't be able to see it.
But even if you can't see inside, I think the walk to find this bit of unique eccentricity is worth it. I certainly wasn't the only person taking photos!
The Palacia Longoria is number 4 Calle de Fernando Vl, in the Malasana district. Nearest Metro is Alonso Martinez.
Hmm..'house of malice' doesn't quite work as a translation. 'Sneaky house' is better.
I believe these houses (a few still remain) are unique to Madrid. They were first built in the mid-to late 1500s and it is thought that at one time there were up to 1000 of them dotted about the city.
When Madrid was designated Spain's capital in 1561 there was a sudden surge in its population. The authorities brought in a law (I've seen it translated as 'The Royalty of the Upper Room') which required house owners to give up half the floor space of their house to any member of the court who required accommodation or (I suspect) pay a tax if no such person wanted accommodation. I think, in effect, this was a tax and one which lasted for at least a couple of centuries.
Basically, the casa de malicia were built to look, from the street, as though they were exempt from the law. Only houses which had a certain amount of floor space. So if your house loooked pretty tiny from the street (even though it might have extended backwards and been huge insiude) you could avoid the burden of the 'royalty of the upper room'.
Architectural 'camouflage' included sloping roofs to disguise upper floors, streetside windows being very small windows, haphazard interior arrangements and partitions..a host of different disguises.
I found this 'casa de malicia' in Calle del Tribulete (number 11), which leads off Calle Meson de Paredes in Lavapies district. It is very near Lavapies Metro station.
Wandering through Lavapies district I was struck by a large and obviously old ex-church, now used (in part) as the Biblioteca Escuelas Pias.
From further research it seems the church (and associated school) only dates from the 1700s, which surprises me as it looked older. It was originally the 'Chapel of the Pillar' built between 1763 and 1791.
The church and school were bombed and looted during the Civil War and stood abandoned for many decades. The conversion of the ruins into a the library for UNED (a distance-learning university) took place in the mid 1990s.
Worth having a look as you wander past, especially at the bits of original stonework which have been incorporated into the new brick walls.
You'll find the church off Calle Meson de Paredes, at its junction with Calle Sombrerete.
Opposite the church/library is one of the few remaining traditional tenement blocks once typical of this area. It is built around a large central courtyard where, nowadays, outdoor performances sometimes take place.
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