2024 Dulux Study Tour, Day 7 – Madrid: A city of youth and exuberance

By Emma Chrisp

“A city is like a book; you can read it if you have the important information about it,” our Madrid guide Werner told us confidently. Originally called Mayrit from the Arabic Mayra meaning plenty of waterways, Madrid became Spain’s capital in 1561. Surprisingly eighty percent of current population growth is after 1950, the city oozes youth and exuberance.

With granite mountains to the north-west and clay grounds to the south-east, Madrid is a city between the mountains and the river. It is also a city between two parks with Parque de la Casa de Campo to the west and Parque de El Retiro to the east. There is order in the city, with a clear axis and wide streets. Differing building ages are mixed, creating a rich collage with enticing variation. This combination of form and style is a transcription of growth radially from the observation post, as a series of satellites beyond the city walls, infilling towards the centre, then expanding north and south.

The 2024 Dulux Study Tour winners in Madrid. Photo by Abbey Czudek.

We started at the royal palace and then make our way through the older parts of the city moving outward following Madrid’s growth line. Along the boulevards is a series of impressive galleries. Herzog and de Meuron’s Caixa Forum performs structural gymnastics by lifting the existing masonry and referencing traditional roof forms in perforated and textured corten. Jean Nouvel’s extension to Museo Reina Sofia with its soaring roof form and continuous custom welded steel columns form a courtyard amplifying the city soundscape. Werner tells us Madrid’s architecture is founded in ornamentation and that it wasn’t until the 18th century that monumental expression was embraced.

Museum Caixa Forum by Herzog and de Meuron. Photo by Emma Chrisp.

There are fabulous examples of innovative housing typologies that feel extremely contemporary. I would live here, I announced more than once. Casa Garisol by J. A, Coderich (1966) has an ingenious rotated plan providing orientation and privacy with an elevated first-floor loggia entry, demonstrating opulence through material application. Viviendas para Militares by F. Higueras (1975) presents a seductive hanging tower of Babylon with curving concrete forms interspersed with cascading planting. Casa de las Flores by S. Suazo (1932) displays beautifully crafted brickwork with an elegant composition containing adaptable units with private light wells and a generous central courtyard. Embedded in these examples is an appreciation for resident privacy with inviting perimeter blocks and sheltered courtyards.

Casa Girasol by J.A. Coderch. Photo by Emma Chrisp

The next project on our itinerary was a stunning feat of structural engineering, Hipodromo de la Zarzuela by E. Torroja, C. Arniches and M. Domingues (1936). The concrete roof form is expertly cast curving in two directions and tapering to create an impossibly fine edge. This form delicately balances on central columns, counterbalancing dramatic cantilevers and suspending the first floor to enable generous glazing spans. Finely balanced and harmoniously composed in a sensuous palette of terrazzo and concrete the curving roof echos traditional terracotta roof tiles. This project is uniquely Spain, and an absolute must for any architect visiting Madrid.

Hipódromo de la Zarzuela by E. Torroja, C. Arniches, M. Domínguez. Photo by Emma Chrisp.

Our day ended along the Manzanares River with the new City-Park Madrid Rio delivered in an astounding eight years as a collaboration between West 8, Burgos and Garrido, Porras La Casta, and Rubio and Alvarez Sala (2011). An assertive decision to drop the motorway below ground has enabled the delivery of more than 8 kilometres of public parkland following the river which has been rewilded. Conceived as a series of local parks generous relief and connections are provided across the river linking neighborhoods preciously divided. The community value and success of this project are evident in its chorus of children and birdsong.

City-Park Madrid Rio by West 8, Burgos & Garrido, Porras La Casta, Rubio and Álvarez Sala. Photo by Emma Chrisp.

Our 12-hour day took us looping through the central city. There is so much to see and do here. There is something familiar about Madrid and so many stimulating ideas to take home, but first a siesta in preparation for a sangria. Madrid is bustling and humming with energy, I’m excited to see what it reveals over the next few days.

– Emma Chrisp is an associate at Hayball.




This form is now closed.