Following two architectural competitions, Moneo’s project was chosen for the design of the Museum’s new extension in 1998. Work began in February 2002 under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture.
The new building incorporates more than 22,000 square metres of surface area (an increase of more than 50% on the existing size) and will allow the various visitor facilities and other aspects relating to the display and conservation of the collections to be arranged in a more ordered and spacious way.
Moneo’s design respects the original building, its surroundings and the unique buildings adjoining it (the church of the Jerónimos and the Academia Española). It links the Museum to a complex comprising a new building and the restored Cloister. This solution, which has allowed the Museum to extend across all the available adjoining space, also frees up the original building, allowing it to be seen as Villanueva originally intended.
From the outside, the link between the new and old buildings is concealed by a planted-out platform of box hedges which evokes 18th-century gardens and creates a landscaped area that joins up with the Botanical Gardens located next to the Museum. In addition, the new brick building constructed around the old Jerónimos Cloister is aligned with the façade of the church of that name, leaving the exterior of the restored and reconstructed arcading of the Cloister visible from the outside. Its façade opens onto the adjacent street area, which has also been remodelled, through a pair of monumental bronze doors commissioned by Moneo from the sculptor Cristina Iglesias.
Inside, the available surface area has been used in a striking and innovative way, with the three floors used for public access connected by a double escalator, and a further five mezzanine floors for internal museum use. The prevailing use of Colmenar stone and bronze creates a visual link with the materials used in Villanueva’s original building.