Restoration of the Casa de la Carnicería in Madrid

Restoration of the Casa de la Carnicería building in Madrid's Plaza Mayor. Combining tradition and modernity.

The Plaza Mayor of Madrid

Madrid welcomes no less than 6 million tourists a year*. And in crescendo. Tourism, with a gentle easing of the crisis, is finally taking off. And, in this landscape, Madrid is an inescapable attraction. Within this already immense region, the capital stands out, with cultural and architectural temptations of the highest order in the world. One of them, the secluded but masterful Plaza Mayor; a unique, agglutinating, versatile space of historical splendour.

This place of popular but overwhelming beauty has been a market, a bullring, a stage for autos de fe, a Christmas market, a place for fairs, religious events, popular festivals, as well as a pleasant social gathering place at sunset... The Plaza Mayor was born to the dictates of the social and cultural scene that marked the 17th century. It was the Spanish Golden Age, the century in which Spain found, on its own intellectual, artistic and cultural merits, its place in the world. In the same way, Madrid, extrapolating the world order, wanted to do the same, but this time on a national level. Around 1560-61, the Plaza Mayor was born. And there, after fires, the destruction of houses and the rehabilitation of many buildings, the germ of a multidisciplinary centre was born, which today survives with a life of its own, adapted to the 21st century, but faithful to the spirit in which it was conceived.

The Butcher's House

Among the buildings that formed part of this initial complex, the seed of other more elaborate ones that were to follow, were the Casa de la Panadería, first, and the Casa de la Carnicería, later. Their aim was none other than to ensure a fair supply of basic foodstuffs for the people of Madrid. Years and years went by, times and vicissitudes passed, but both houses remained standing, adapting their uses to the changing times. Today, more than four hundred years later, the Casa de la Carnicería, the one that concerns us, still stands undaunted, presiding over the nerve centre of a Madrid that was and still is.

The building, now empty, is an architectural jewel occupying one of the city's fetish sites. Four original heights, protected by two splendid towers, frame an emblematic building that, at last, looks to the future with a flattering perspective. That of a refurbishment that will turn it into a hotel with a very personal identity.


And today, in 2015, the Casa de la Carnicería awaits its great leap to fame. Tibaldi, the 17th century Italian architect and painter, a contemporary of Velázquez, writes that "it is situated in a large courtyard with arcades surrounding it, not far from the forum, which is reached by two large doors. Around it are the benches of beef, then lamb, then veal, then goats, where you can neither commit fraud nor sell one thing for another". And this is how history is written. It was a charismatic place centuries ago, and it will remain so today.

The restoration of the building

The Casa de la Carnicería will be reborn. In 2016, once a wall-to-wall fire station has been vacated, a high-class hotel is planned. Previously it had crossed the minds of those who thought it would be a Parador Nacional, but it did not meet the specifications. It does for luxury accommodation in the historic centre of Madrid.

The tender for the refurbishment, change of use and operation of the hotel has just been awarded. There are currently some additions that add nothing to the interest of the building. The added elements are to be demolished: some practical, others ornamental, both out of time and out of contemporary context.

The new rehabilitation of the Casa de la Carnicería building in Madrid will focus on the recovery of the rear courtyard of the building, with access from Calle Imperial, with the aim of returning it to its original form and restoring and reconstructing its façades by removing the elements added in the renovations of 1955 and 1984. The compartmentalisation required by the new use is as respectful as possible with the original structure of the building, reinforcing the presence of the load-bearing wall parallel to the façade facing Plaza Mayor. The roof skirts will be regularised, eliminating the added bodies and terraces on inclined planes, all the installations will be located under the roof, avoiding the exit to the outside of chimneys or similar elements at points visible from the public road. And, clearly, priority will be given to ensuring that the rooms look outwards, to their neighbouring Casa de la Panadería, that they look towards history, towards the future of a bustling civilisation, of which the Plaza Mayor is a witness, an obligatory passageway and a fundamental standard-bearer.

* Data 2014 Madrid Tourist Office.

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