RAE: an architectonical jewel besides Prado Museum

While going into the Prado Museum, there’s always one question: What are those buildings? They mean Saint Jerome Church and RAE. In this article, we’re focusing on the second one.

RAE: where it is? The neoclassical area of Madrid

RAE (Real Academia de la Lengua, Spanish for Royal Academy of the Language) owns one of the most interesting buildings in the city. It’s the Madrid’s classic neoclassic architecture. The area was outside the city until not that long ago, indeed, Madrid has never stopped widening. In the 17th Century, it ended in Puerta del Sol (Spanish for Sun’s Gate); it was no-one but Philip IV who built a palace in the so-called area of Saint Jerome’s Meadow, a desolate space one mile away from Puerta del Sol where there was nothing but a lonely church. That old palace was bombed by Napoleon in the firsts decades of the 19th Century. Nothing remains except for this palace’s gardens… What nowadays we call “Retiro Park”. This is how the city started its umpteenth expansion.

Philip V and Charles III: a new Madrid for a new dynasty

Philip IV’s son (Charles II) didn’t have a successor. Then, the French and the Germanic branch of the family started a war. The influence of Louis XIV of France was huge, that’s how he got to win a war which resulted in a master chess move: the new King of Spain was his grandson: Philip Bourbon, V of Spain who arrived in the country in 1700. The Habsburg’s times were finally over after almost two centuries. However, Philip V didn’t really like a city that felt so medieval, Madrid barely advanced architectonically since so long ago. That’s why Philip V made a new boulevard in Saint Jerome’s Meadow.

That boulevard remains quite similar to the one we could have seen three centuries ago: it’s nowadays Paseo del Prado. By the way: Prado is Spanish for meadow. The name of the museum makes a reference to that area we’ve been speaking about all along. That’s how the neoclassical Madrid started, with an urban reorganization of the streets thought by a new king who came from another country. Madrid followed the lead of Paris. Then, in 1759, Charles III’s reign started. This king received the popular title of Best Mayor of Madrid. He did make a difference with a number of contributions, for instance: the sewage system, Alcala’s Gate, Prado Museum, Botanical Gardens… And that new Madrid that was envisioned by his father was finally completed.

RAE: the beauty of discretion

It must be hard to shine besides a star like Prado Museum, which might be considered the Spanish neoclassic building which has got closer to perfection, besides, Saint Jerome Church, which is another great piece of gothic art. And that’s the next door building! Anyway, it’s clear that the Museum’s building leads a path for the architecture around, moreover, the new neoclassic style hadn’t been new for 150 years. The RAE building was commissioned to Miguel Aguado de la Sierra, who started the works in 1891. The opening of this palace was celebrated in April of 1894 under the presidency of the Regent Queen by then, María Christine of Austria.

Seeing the RAE building

In the next paragraphs we are finally analyzing the building. The front façade is surrounded by trees, which gives a natural atmosphere to a building in the heart of the city. That’s a typical neoclassic move, nonetheless, maybe the first thing which makes a point is the doric colonnade. We have to add the roman-inspired entablature (the rectangle and triangle above the columns) and, of course, the stairway which helps the whole block to settle on the ground. On top, the marble-like refinement gives the building a sense of balance.

When we think about the neoclassic period there’s a number of issues we have to mention. Firstly, the seek of rationality, that’s why the building seems to be made square by square. This marked the renaissance and consequently the going back to classics which could describe the neoclassic. Secondly, the human being is the measure. After all, we’re speaking about a building that represents the institution which takes care of the Spanish Language, in other words, a building for humanistic science. Then, if we compare this rational building with the gothic building right next door, we’ll think that it is too low (only a couple of floors). Well, RAE looks as if it will be managed by humans, while the Gothic one looks like it is reaching God. Finally, everything needs to be symmetrical and harmonious, a goal absolutely achieved by this beauty.


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