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Detailed Guide to Exploring the Architectural Grandeur of Reina Sofia

The home of Pablo Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica, Reina Sofía National Art Centre in Madrid, officially Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Spanish, is an architectural showpiece itself. Constructed as a hospital in the sixteenth century, Reina Sofía underwent frequent renovation, adding new perspectives. It’s an architecture marvel infusing history with modernity. Read on to learn more about the Reina Sofia’s unique architecture.

Architectural Highlights of Reina Sofia

Elevator Towers: Huge elevator towers made of steel and glass.

Sabatini Building: The primary venue in neoclassical style.

The Nouvel Building: An extension with stunning architecture.

Reina Sofia Architectural Style

The predominant architectural style of Reina Sofia is neoclassical, inspired by Late Renaissance art. The building was constructed as a field hospital in the eighteenth century under the direction of the Spanish King Charles III. Initially, José de Hermosilla supervised the construction before the renowned Italian architect Francisco Sabatini took over. The monarch died in 1788, leaving Sabatini's original plan unfinished. Reina Sofia underwent numerous modifications throughout history, but the most notable addition occurred in 1988 when three colossal steel and glass elevator towers were added to the building. In 2005, the extension known as The Nouvel Building was inaugurated, blending old and modern architectural styles.

Who Built/Designed the Reina Sofia?
José de Hermosilla: One of the most iconic architects of the mid-eighteenth century, José de Hermosilla was the initial architect for the project. He was tasked with constructing a field hospital for Madrid.

Francisco Sabatini: The main building of Reina Sofia is named after the Italian architect Francisco Sabatini. An astute follower of Italian neoclassical architecture style, Sabatini envisioned the building in a typical neoclassical style.

Antonio Fernández Alba: The legendary architect Antonio Fernández Alba headed the restoration work of Reina Sofia in 1980. The work mainly concentrated on transforming the hospital building into a functional space for exhibitions.

José Luis Iñiguez de Onzoño: The notable rationalist style architect José Luis Iñiguez de Onzoño partnered with Antonio Vázquez de Castro to give Reina Sofia a facelift in 1988. It was their proposal to bring the expertise of British architect Ian Ritchie to build the steel and glass elevator towers.
Jean Nouvel: The contemporary French architect Jean Nouvel constructed the newly opened Nouvel Building in 2005. Known as the Shadow of Reina Sofia, the new exhibition space complements the old building without upstaging it.

Structure of Reina Sofia

As Reina Sofia was originally a hospital in somber neoclassical architectural style, it blends seamlessly with other classic designs from the eighteenth century. The hospital was shut down in 1965, and Reina Sofia remained a puzzle to be solved. Some proposals called for its demolition, but the building was salvaged by a royal decree declaring it a national monument in 1977. Restoration works in 1980 saw the face of the building change dramatically, thanks to well-known architects who added their imprints. The distinctively looking building is an amalgamation of the laid-back neoclassical style. However, in 1988, three new slab-sided glass and steel elevators were added to the facade, completely changing the perspective of the building. The newest addition is an extension known as the Nouvel Building, constructed by architect Jean Nouvel. It follows a very modern design with a large aluminum roof.

Stages of Construction Of Reina Sofia

A Hospital

Reina Sofia was founded as a hospital during the reign of the Spanish King Felipe II. The facility was called San Carlos Hospital.

New Hospital

In the eighteenth century, Spanish King Carlos III decided to add a new building to accommodate more patients. This time, master architects José de Hermosilla and Francisco Sabatini were involved. They were responsible for the large part of the architectural marvel that Reina Sofia is. The death of Carlos III halted the construction and forced Sabatini to leave the project unfinished.

Hospital Shutdown

In 1965, the hospital was closed and transferred to the authority of the Madrid Province Health Service. In 1977, by a royal decree, the institution was declared a national monument and survived demolition.

Reina Sofia Art Center

In 1980, the popular architect Antonio Fernandez Alba took over the restoration project. In 1986, the museum hosted temporary exhibitions.

Façade in Steel and Glass

In 1988, two Spanish architects pitched the idea of making modifications to the current facade. They added the now-iconic steel and glass elevator towers in collaboration with British architect Ian Ritchie.

The Nouvel Building

In 2001, the French Architect Jean Nouvel added The Nouvel Building. It was opened in 2005 and now serves as a modern extension to the grand neoclassical building next door.

The Exterior and Interior of Reina Sofia
The exterior of Reina Sofia retains much of the original neoclassical architecture of the hospital, except for the three colossal steel and glass elevator towers. The exterior is typical of classical architecture, sporting a symmetrical facade and grand proportions in line with traditional styles. However, the newly built Nouvel Building is modern and contemporary, though it acts as a shadow of the main building. The museum also features a central courtyard and plenty of public spaces. The interior architecture of Reina Sofia was altered many times to accommodate the needs of exhibits. Originally a hospital, the building underwent several restoration projects under the supervision of visionary architects, resulting in interior changes. Today, elements of both the hospital and contemporary design remain, creating a fusion of styles.

Sub-attraction of Reina Sofia

Sabatini Building

Constructed by Francisco Sabatini, this historic building sits close to the former hospital building. It serves as the primary exhibition space and is one of the loveliest examples of neoclassical architecture. It was actually designed by architect José de Hermosilla, but after his death, Francisco Sabatini was tasked with completing the building. He too was unable to finish the original plan as the Monarch died midway through construction.

Nouvel Building

A striking contemporary design coupled with the finest modern architectural style, the Nouvel Building was constructed in 2005, and takes its name from the French architect Jean Nouvel. The building was constructed to extend the gallery space and other facilities. It's known for its unique geometric facade made of red glass panels and ultra-modern aesthetic.

Sculpture Garden

This outdoor sculpture garden hosts a diverse collection of installations. Located outside the museum buildings, it gives visitors a chance to experience a different perspective. It's both contemporary and modern.




Visit Reina Sofia in Madrid

Frequently Asked Questions About the Reina Sofia’s Architecture

What is Reina Sofia's architectural style?

Reina Sofia follows neoclassical architecture, common in Europe in the early 18th century. Originally built as a hospital, Reina Sofia underwent significant facelifts on many occasions, adapting to contemporary design without diluting its neoclassical charm.

Who designed Reina Sofia?

Italian architect Francisco Sabatini designed Reina Sofia, though he was not the first architect involved. José de Hermosilla was initially tasked with altering the 16th-century hospital building under the direction of the Spanish King Carlos III.

Why is Reina Sofia's architecture famous?

Reina Sofia's architecture is striking for its blend of different styles. Primarily neoclassical, the building has undergone frequent additions and restorations, resulting in a striking aesthetic.

What inspired Reina Sofia?

Reina Sofia is not modelled after any particular building or design. It draws inspiration from various sources, as continuous renovations and facelifts changed its character over the years.

When was Reina Sofia built?

The original building dates back to the 16th century when it was built as a hospital. Frequent changes and additions were made after the hospital closed in 1965, and the current museum opened to the public in 1992.

How long did it take to construct Reina Sofia?

Reina Sofia is a work in progress. The first architect commissioned for the work died before completion, and the monarch who initiated the second building also died mid-way through construction. The latest addition, including the glass and steel elevator towers, was in 2005.

What are the dimensions of Reina Sofia?

The entire Reina Sofia exhibition space occupies approximately 84,048 square meters.

What are the main architectural elements of Reina Sofia?

Reina Sofia's main architectural elements include the neoclassical facade designed by Francisco Sabatini, modern architectural cues like the steel and glass elevator towers, the central courtyard, and the modern sculpture garden.

What's inside Reina Sofia?

The interiors of Reina Sofia feature a unique mix of neoclassical architecture and modern renovations.

What is on the exterior of Reina Sofia?

The exterior of Reina Sofia is noted for its historic facade, modern extensions, glass elevator, and outdoor spaces.