The Museum Plan laid down the guidelines for the project for the extension with the aim of recuperating the Villanueva building as the principal historical seat of the Prado Museum, to be used almost exclusively for the display of the permanent collections. It also stipulated that the property containing the Jerónimos Cloister would be used as a venue for temporary exhibitions, restoration workshops, technical offices and other museum services, contained in a new building connected at its lower levels with Villanueva’s. The most crucial piece in this project is the area joining the Jerónimos and the Prado. This is where the reception hall, one of the key elements of the program, accommodates all the services needed for receiving visitors – ticket purchase, information, checkrooms, telephones, etc. Also destined for this area are the auditorium, the bookstore and museum shop, a cafeteria and restaurant. An open courtyard, visible from the entrances and accessible to the public, providing a view of Villanueva‘s apse animates and transforms the floor plan. From this reception area visitors can reach the new temporary exhibition galleries, located below ground in the Jerónimos site, as well as the upper levels of the new building. The new building has a pedagogical nature with various levels, accommodating a second gallery for temporary exhibitions, seminar rooms, a room for drawings, the library, a technical documentation department, restoration workshops and the spaces necessary for loading and unloading works of art. Its ashlar stonework is protected by a concrete wall and crowned with a glass roof that will let natural light into all the spaces surrounding it. A large lantern in the center brings light into the temporary exhibition rooms situated in the two floors immediately below the cloister. It adds an extra 22,000 square metres to the great museum. One of the main focal points will be the cloister of Los Jerónimos church (found next door) which was dismantled, and re-assembled, piece-by-piece.
Photographs: Denis Doyle Photography(www.denisdoylephotos.com)