1997 Opera of the Orient


Madrid has two new horseshoes: a horseshoe of red velvet seat boxes and a horseshoe of underground parking lots. Tangent to one another at their curved ends and connected by ramps and columns, they occupy the historic and symbolic center of the city, with the Bourbon palace rising nearby on the site of the old fortress. The theater horseshoe is the heart of Madrid’s restored opera house, which served as such from 1850 to 1925 but was transformed after various vicissitudes into a concert hall, and was used for that purpose from 1966 to 1988, when the works now being culminated began. In turn, three parking levels form a horseshoe beneath the Plaza de Oriente, which was brutally excavated to bury traffic and link the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral by foot, via a pedestrian esplanade, to the revived Royal Theater. Though nurtured by different administrations – the theater was boosted by successive culture ministries during the socialist years, while the plaza is an emblematic realization of the current conservative city hall – both projects were characterized by huge budgets, huge delays and huge controversies. Their simultaneous completion enables us to gauge Madrid’s current tastes and to illustrate the paradoxes of urban and cultural policies...[+]

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