A chance to look around

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MADRID GEM: Gym at Maravillas school Photo credit Strakhov

IN 1985, the UN introduced Habitat Day, reflecting on the state of the world’s towns and cities.

Twelve years later, the International Union of Architects decided to hold World Architecture Day on the same day, underlining the profession’s commitment to society.

In Madrid this year, thanks to Open House Madrid and the Madrid College of Architects (COAM), the public could visit more than 100 city buildings that usually restrict admission.

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These ranged from the austerity of Alejandro de la Sota’s1962 Colegio Maravillas gymnasium in Calle Joaquin Costa to Palacio Longoria, the Spanish-Modernist building now occupied by the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers.

The public were able to see inside the Cuartel General del Ejercito (Air Force) headquarters, constructed between 1943 and 1958, and visit contemporary buildings including the Ciudad BBVA complex  by the Swiss architecture studio Herzog & De Meuron.

The car wash designed by Lina Tor, named Behind the scenes. Not only a car wash, where the machinery is on view, not hidden, was also on the list, as was the Castellana 77 office block together with the Art Deco Hotel Vincci Capitol and Zarzuela Race Course.

“A city’s architecture reflects its history,” said Jose Maria Ezquiaga, who heads COAM.

“It is not possible to talk about one style of architecture in Madrid because styles vary so much in terms of the moment,” continued Ezquiaga, whose personal preference is for the neoclassical El Prado by Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811).

The Open House initiative originated in London in 1992 to encourage appreciation, understanding and knowledge of contemporary and historic buildings, recognising quality above the age of the constructions.

Twenty years later, Open Houe is celebrated in more than 40 cities that include New York, Paris, Chicago, Jerusalem and Buenos Aires as well as Spain.

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