Money Heist! The name says it all, the record-breaking series on Netflix beautifully picturized in Madrid. Money Heist, originally known as “La casa de Papel” a.k.a. The House of Paper, is a Spanish television series, created and produced by Alex Pina. The first episode premiered on 2nd May 2017 on a Spanish Network Antena 3, until later in 2017, Netflix bought the international streaming rights for the series and it blew worldwide.

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An Architectural Review of Money Heist - Sheet1
Money Heist _©netflix.com

People are head over heels in love with this show because of the plot and the direction. But guess what, behind the guns and glamour, this Spanish show winds us with its visual vocabulary. The locations and the sets add to the grandeur of the show!

The Exquisite Portrayal of Architecture in the Plot

The series portrays a heist at the Royal Mint of Spain during the initial parts and The Bank of Spain in the latest parts. The story revolves around a group of robbers who are code-named after various famous cities like Tokyo, Helsinki, Nairobi, Moscow, Rio, Berlin, etc. taking part in a well-orchestrated robbery conducted under the vision of the main protagonist, “the Professor.”

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Although the show has really been gripping as the storyline unfolds beautifully while you advance into the series, the real thing to look out for is the picturesque and stunning locations of Madrid, giving us a glimpse of the remarkable Spanish architecture.

The majestic building in the backdrop has been curated well by the production team. With the heist and all the gunfire shenanigans going on in the foreground, these massive and grand locations depict the scale of the heist for the protagonists of the story. Other than the main locations of the Bank and the Royal Mint, their hideouts and their controlling locations are also wonderfully picturized, showcasing the intensity of the situations.

The Backdrops Say It All

An Architectural Review of Money Heist - Sheet2
The Heist _©netflix.com

The show has compared the circumstances of the protagonists, locked in the grand buildings and the police, trying to make negotiations from the tents in front of the buildings. The structures depict authority and power. While the robbers are inside these organizations with the hostages, they are depicted to be in power and the police in the tents are shown desperately having to negotiate for the authority.

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The hideouts of the professor are depicted as dark, filthy sets with all the technical setups needed to control the heist. In the initial parts during the robbery at The Royal Mint of Spain, the professor’s locations are kept close to where the heist is taking place to facilitate his intrusion into the police tents for information. These hideouts are illustrated in the darkest corners of the town, such as abandoned warehouses or factories, to demonstrate a sense of secrecy and illusion.

The creators of the series have used all the locations to their utmost advantage. Money heist majorly revolves around the two buildings and the police camps with dark sets and warfare situations, but some scenes shot on other locations like the Philippines island after the first heist depict the characters as normal people with colourful lives living on beaches and travelling like vagabonds. While the settings for the preparation of the heist are different. They are shown living in churches and monasteries far from the city while preparing for the heist, to showcase the level of confidentiality of their lessons. No one in the world would imagine robbers planning their heist while living in a church.

The Two Grand Buildings

An Architectural Review of Money Heist - Sheet3
The Royal Mint _©dribble.com

Talking about the two important locations, namely, The Royal Mint of Spain and The Bank of Spain, these two buildings add to the magnificence of the show. Although the shooting at the real Royal Mint and the Bank of Spain was totally out of the question due to security reasons, it was necessary for the producers to have a building that would imitate similar sumptuousness and heritage. Hence, they chose the Headquarters of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid as the set for The Royal Mint and the building of the Ministry of Public Works and Transports for The Bank of Spain.

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An Architectural Review of Money Heist - Sheet4
The Bank of Spain _©cgtrader.com

The facades of these buildings have been used wisely, exemplifying the Spanish style of architecture with grand entryways, colonnades, and architraves. It was not possible to shoot inside these buildings hence most of the sets were made at local studios in Madrid. The aim was to create realistic visuals that would come from places of importance like the Royal Mint and the Bank of Spain. The makers were able to curate things like grand halls, massive security safes, and spectacular banquets with paintings that resembled European style interiors. 

It is impressive to see that the makers have earmarked every detail by including the minor things like the furniture from the classical era, the crockery on the dining tables, and even various sculptures wholly accumulating the organic theme of an ancient government building with modern updated elements all curated at the studios.

A Beautiful Balance

Apart from the interior of these buildings, the creative directors have excellently synchronized the outer shots as well. The publicness of the heist is presented by using the squares of Madrid to deliver the Professor’s message to the audience. What other than the Plaza del Callao could be a perfect location for the publicity of the Heist! By the way, you can actually visit this square to go through the rollercoaster ride of your emotions attached to the show!

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An Architectural Review of Money Heist - Sheet5
The Square _©klook.com

The visuals only make half of the experience when you want to dive into a series like money heist, even though the majority of the scenes include the war and action sequences, behind the gunshots and the fights the sound artists blend the beauty of friendship and rebellion by the protagonists. The infamous “Bella Ciao” a Spanish folk song has become something that people would sing all across the world to promote joy and friendship as the characters sing in the series to display moments of bliss and unity.

References

Nast, C. (2021). Money Heist is back and we are meeting the real stars of the show, the buildings of Madrid. [online] Architectural Digest India. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.in/story/heres-why-the-architecture-of-madrid-is-the-real-star-of-money-heist-netflix/ 

www.netflix.com. (n.d.). Money Heist | Netflix Official Site. [online] Available at: https://www.netflix.com/watch/80205342?trackId=14751296&tctx=3%2C0%2C6c71da8b-cac5-47f7-8d20-453c03f6712e-8238358%2Cacffc2e3-2b0d-424b-8e87-dd86d0fa8468_26013260X55XX1631851030198%2Cacffc2e3-2b0d-424b-8e87-dd86d0fa8468_ROOT%2C 

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www.klook.com. (n.d.). 11 Locations You Didn’t Know Money Heist Was Filmed In – Klook Travel Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.klook.com/en-PH/blog/money-heist-film-locations/ 

Author

Aditi is a creative soul and a firm believer in procedural learning. She looks towards building a sustainable milieu by linking the built environment to the roots of India’s culture. She is an ardent reader and holds a keen interest in art, architecture and aesthetics.

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