Prado extension designed by Norman Foster finally gets the green light

First proposed in 1995, the project has faced multiple delays

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Foster + Partners extension to the Prado Museum, Madrid. © Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners extension to the Prado Museum, Madrid. © Foster + Partners

The long-awaited extension to the Museo del Prado in Madrid co-designed by the British architect Norman Foster has been approved by the Spanish government, which awarded the project €36m earlier this week.

Foster won the prestigious international competition to remodel the 17th-century Hall of Realms, located in the former Buen Retiro Palace, as a new wing in 2016. The winning design, conceived jointly with the Spanish architect Carlos Rubio, beat submissions from other high-profile museum architects such as David Chipperfield and Rem Koolhaas.

According to the El Pais newspaper, the museum will receive the specially ring-fenced funding in phases: €8.3m will be allocated next year, €20.5m in 2023 and €7.2m in 2024.

Under Foster and Rubio’s plan, known as Hidden Design, a new thoroughfare will connect the Hall of Realms with the main museum building. It also incorporates a large “semi-open and permeable” entrance atrium on the south façade; a new roof topped with solar panels will meanwhile give natural light to a large exhibition space above the atrium, overlooking the main museum complex.

First proposed by the Spanish government in 1995, the project to restore the only surviving part of Philip IV’s 17th-century Buen Retiro pleasure palace, which housed Spain’s Army Museum until 2005, was hampered by years of austerity. The pandemic and political wrangling prompted further delays.

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