The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía was a cutting-edge Spanish museum when it opened its doors in 1990. But to accomplish this, its construction faced many difficulties. San Carlos Hospital, the museum’s current site, was initially established in the sixteenth century by King Felipe II. All the hospitals spread out throughout the Court were centralised here. Carlos III decided to establish another hospital in the eighteenth century because these were not meeting the city’s needs. The current structure was designed by José de Hermosilla and Francisco Sabatini, who also oversaw a sizable portion of its construction.

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Reina Sofía Museum Main Entrance_©Joaquín Cortés-Román Lores

The building was still ongoing when Carlos III passed away in 1788. The hospital was established and operating as intended, even though only a third of Sabatini’s project had been finished.

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Reina Sofía Museum_©Reina Sofía

Until the hospital’s closure in 1965, numerous alterations and additions were made starting at that point. Its duties were transferred to the Health Service of the Madrid Province. The building’s survival was assured in 1977 when it was designated a national monument by royal decree because of its historical and artistic value, despite numerous rumours that it would be demolished.

The Reina Sofia Art Centre was inaugurated in April 1986 after restoration work under the supervision of Antonio Fernández Alba started in 1980. Temporary exhibition spaces were located on the building’s first and ground floors. The three steel and glass elevator towers, created in collaboration with British architect Ian Ritchie, deserve special attention. José Luis Iniguez de Onzoo and Antonio Vázquez de Castro made the final modifications toward the end of 1988.

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Reina Sofía Museum_©Joaquín Cortés-Román Lores

Royal Decree 535/88 from May 1988 established the Museo Reina Sofia as a separate entity under the control of the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The Collection was made up of pieces that the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art had at the time conserved, and it had its main offices at San Carlos Hospital. Their Majesties, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, opened the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia’s Permanent Collection on September 10, 1992. Up until that point, the museum only hosted transient exhibits. Now a legitimate museum, its objectives, as stated in the aforementioned decree, were to preserve, develop, and exhibit its holdings; to promote the general public’s knowledge of and access to contemporary art in its various manifestations; to hold international exhibitions; and to provide training, educational, and assessment activities related to its holdings.

Concepts | Museo Reina Sofía

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Reina Sofía Museum_©Reina Sofía

In addition to serving the needs of the defendants, the winning project gave the city space. Building public square results from managing new structures and the Southwest Museum’s current facade. According to architect Jean Nouvel, this addition is “an invitation to create exhibits, activities, and is a support for actions.” “A wing under which he discovers the sky with reflections and transparencies, a unifying wing that does not touch the museum but was stopped less than a meter to let a ray of light, a wing which corresponds exactly to cover the forged penultimate floor of the museum. “


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Reina Sofía Museum_©Reina Sofía

Stunning Jatoba wood library with 100 reading stations and space for 250,000 books, two distinct audiences (one for 500 people and another for 200), a cafe-restaurant run by Sergi Arola, and two new rooms for temporary exhibitions are all features of the new Nouvel-designed buildings.

One of the areas with the most interactive features is surrounded by terraces that don’t touch the museum; here, one is invited to join heaven and earth by looking at an upside-down version of Madrid’s buildings and streets or at the visitor, who can then become a component of their artwork.

2,251 square meters are devoted to temporary exhibition space. They have a system that enables them to conceal the glass facades completely. The light shafts offer a natural lighting source, artificial lighting source, or both. Specifying highly complex works of art is also possible through unique mechanisms.

The addition houses two auditoriums, one with 200 seats and one with 500. The auditorium and meeting rooms stand out because of their distinctive shapes, which Nouvel attributes to the surrounding environment. With lookout terraces all around, it is boxed, stretched, and shaped with rounded corners “.

Materials | Museo Reina Sofía

Patio Nouvel_©Reina Sofía

According to architect Jean Nouvel, “elements employed in the construction of this extension are new in Spain but have been used in other countries such as England or France,” new materials and construction methods have been used in Spain. These materials make up the composite (vidi fibre and polyester) that gives the addition’s building’s exterior and interior a very distinct reddish tint.

Unique designs for shielding aluminium extruded facades have been made using materials known as lamas. An enormous lamp made of moulded glass at the Royal Glass Factory of the Granja (Segovia) and the aerodynamic deck, which is covered in alucore and zinc, were created for the library’s roof.

The rolled steel is used to build the Library and the Exhibition buildings. In the workshops of the company Horta, beams and pillars were created using the laser cutting of 5 cm thick pilasters to be welded, then transferred to work in each 12, 16, and 22 meters as if they were made of fabric.

The auditoriums were constructed using a reinforced concrete system. The forces of the auditoriums are supported by two sizable ribs that are symmetrically arranged. By connecting the ribs with reinforced concrete beams, the stalls were created.

The substantial deck, which rises six meters on the building terraces, is supported by metal pillars and is nearly 8,000 square meters in size. Up to 36 meters are overhung in flight. It was built from metal girders and had a central area 3 point 4 meters high and an outer perimeter 5 cm thick.


Market Research Telecast: An ‘architectural’ walk through the Reina Sofía Museum [online] Available at: [Accessed date: 07 December 2022].

Museo National Centro De Arte Reina Sofia: History [online] Available at: [Accessed date: 09 December 2022].

Wikiarquitectura: Extension of the Reina Sofia Art Center [online] Available at: [Accessed date: 08 December 2022].

Dominique Perrault Architecture: Reina Sofia Museum [online] Available at: [Accessed date: 08 December 2022].


Chan Simon is a fresh architecture school graduate from the University of Juba with a passion for evening the playing field. He is currently a design studio teaching assistant in the architecture department at the School of Architecture, Land Management, Urban and Regional Planning (University of Juba).