Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Retro fit and Retro fit

There is a refreshing nonchalance in the additions to the older buildings in Madrid. The obvious public example is the addition of the elevators in the Reina Sophia Museum. A pair of slick hi-tech glass and stainless steel towers are appended to the outside of the older palacio for easy access to upper floor galleries. Visiting the Guernica deserves such a rite of passage, I suppose. These glass boxes overlook the beautiful plaza that fronts the museum, justifying the use of the scenic elevators. The words Reina and Sophia are etched large on the towers evoking memories of the fad for super-graphics in the early PoMo day of the eighties.

The point is that contemporary inserts into historical spaces are not always a bad thing. Contrast this with Raphael Moneo's addition to the Atocha Station- another building evoking the eighties and some of the horrors that Botta and Bofill were up to at the time. The interior spaces are interesting specially the train platforms themselves, which are a delight. But I am not sure how the drum-like central circulation space and the cuboid clock tower sit with the fabulousl19th century glass and iron station.

On the subject of retrofit, the last word surely goes to the lift installed in our tiny B&B- the Hostal Luz on the Arenal. Fitted in (the perhaps two feet three inches wide) stairwell of an older four floor building, the elevator is exquisite in its modernity- with all the fittings- the stainless steel and glass that made the Reina Sophia's what it is. Wide enough to accommodate me, but not me with a rucksack, making me feel like a mujera in a tube top, traveling in it made up in style, elegance and convenience whatever it lacked in volume.


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