Madrid’s glittering Palacio de Cristal is an amazing event space set within a renovated Industrial Revolution-era botanical garden. Opened in 1887 as a tropical garden highlighting the flora and fauna of the Philippines, the wrought iron and glass building has been transformed into a gorgeous, light filled exhibition space curated by the nearby Reina Sofia Museum. Located in the middle of Retiro Park, the domed glass mansion-like building currently hosts “Collaborating Agents,” by artist Nacho Criado, who upcycles found objects into beautiful art installations.
Inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, the glass-domed structure was built in the shape of a Greek cross at the height of the Industrial Revolution, and was completed in just 4 months. Panes of glass stretch up to the 72 foot ceiling, sparkling in the sun at various points of the day and reflecting the lush landscape and adjacent pond that surrounds the building. Nestled in a lush area of the park, coming across the Palacio de Cristal feels like discovering a hidden gem amongst the serene landscape of the park.
Experiencing an art exhibition in a venue like the Palacio de Cristal is otherworldly; the pristine glass encasement of the building gives way to the greenery outside, creating a surreal effect which makes the viewer keenly aware of man and nature together. Despite this powerful scene, the art installations do not take second stage, and instead harmonize with their unique surroundings.
The late Madrid native Nacho Criado’s work often incorporates disused and found materials and glass as a medium, which further ties the venue in with the displayed art works. The exhibition, which continues in the actual Reina Sofia Museum, recreates a piece from 1991. Fungus grows on some of the glass panes that face a thicket of evergreen trees, connecting inside and out. Rows and rows of dark and light glass bottles are organized in a grid, emulating a parquet floor that would feel appropriate under the arched glass domes. A rusted framed room houses sparkly smashed glass, calling attention to the fragility of the almost 150 year old glass structure that houses the entire exhibition.
The Palacio de Cristal is not only a gorgeously preserved relic remaining from Spain’s Industrial Revolution, but secures a foot in modernity with its transformation into a premier venue to host avant garde modern art.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat
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