In 1996 our sister magazine AV devoted an issue to the Prado Museum extension competition, to which almost 500 international teams concurred, and that was disappointingly settled without a winner. The issue featured the ten shortlisted proposals, twenty additional ones that we found particularly interesting, and an additional one outside the competition, designed by Norman Foster and accompanied by the architect’s critical commentary of the bases of the endeavor. The magazine itself was no less critical upon judging the competition’s outcome, and my own editorial text apportioned responsibilities between three institutions: “The Ministry of Culture, as convener of the competition, has brushed off its evident responsibility by shifting attention to the at once plural and mediocre jury; the UIA, as organizing instrument, has revealed its administrative impotence; the Museum’s Board of Trustees, as arbiter of the process, has exposed its inability to decide the future of an art gallery that is more deteriorated in its human structure than in its physical framework.” As is all too well known, the competition was called again two years later among the ten finalists, and Rafael Moneo was chosen with a project that knew several versions, and that would be finally built to incorporate the Jerónimos Cloister to the Prado campus.
Twenty years after the unfortunate first extension competition, the Prado Museum has managed to insert in that campus another fragment of the disappeared Palacio del Buen Retiro – in this case the Salón de Reinos (Hall of Realms), which for many years housed the Museum of the Army, today relocated in the Alcázar of Toledo –, and it seemed fitting to dedicate a new special issue to the current competition, carried out this time among practices with extensive experience in museum and heritage projects, which were asked to submit CVs. A total of 47 teams entered, and the jury chose eight to draft proposals: Chipperfield, Cruz & Ortiz, Foster, Garcés, Gluckman, Nieto Sobejano, OMA and Souto de Moura, in almost all cases in association with other architects. The winning project, announced on 24 November, turned out to be that of Norman Foster and Carlos Rubio, who will now have the responsibility of materializing their proposal. The jury – which reached unanimous agreement – included the author of the previous extension, Rafael Moneo, as well as the director of this magazine, a circumstance that may affect his judgement, so the projects are presented here without a critical appraisal to let readers reach their own conclusions.