Archive for May, 2018

If you’ve ever been to Madrid you will probably have noticed the tile street signs and tiles on house walls that show pictures and tell entire stories. Although people might not notice them that much, they are part of Madrid’s ancient history and belong to one of the oldest cultural goods of the area.

Pottery and ceramics have been a speciality of the whole community of Madrid since the Middle Ages.  With the foundation of the Royal Factory of Porcelanas del Buen Retiro, the school of ceramics, these handicrafts became even more established and built an important part of people’s daily life. The ceramic material forms one of the indigenous architectural elements since ancient times.

streets madrid

Archaeologists found pieces of ceramics from the 9th and 10th century corresponding to the period of Muslim occupation as well as pottery from the 16th to 19th century made in Alcorcón, a neighbouring village of the city.
Pottery significantly entered Madrid’s architecture at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th through Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and popularized thanks to his outstanding student Antonio Palacios. The first examples can be found inside the Palacio de Comunicaciones. Especially important was the use of tiles at the beginning of the 20th century in the design of the first railway stations.

When walking around the streets of the city centre you will automatically come across some art pieces of former times. There is a collection of about 500 street plates of the historic quarter, made in 1990 by Alfredo Ruiz de Luna Gonzalez. The street art of old Madrid illustrates streets, squares, crossings, costs and more. They all have a common layout, they are composed by nine old-style tiles.

street signs

signs like these can be found everywhere in the centre

Besides those smaller artistic features of the architecture, there are bigger and more obvious works of art spread all over the city as well, such as the bullring Plaza de Toros de las Ventas which is decorated with large tile murals, representing employees, breeders and masters of bullfighting.
But also restaurants and are partly covered in tiles that show pictures of former residents, their profession or stories about the building:
Restaurante Viva Madrid in calle de Manuel Fernandes y Gonzalez 7,  Villa Rosa on Plaza Santa Ana 15, or Antigua Huevería in calle de San Vicente Ferrer 32 just to name a few.


this bar used to be a shop where people could buy eggs

Another great spot for this kind of street art is the huge park in the centre, the Parque del Retiro. Several buildings within the green gardens are lavishly decorated, like the Velazquez palace or also the Chrystal Palace. Their interior is used as exhibition rooms although their exterior also appears like a work of art.


Chrystal Palace on the left and Velazquez Palace on the right

You thought you have seen it all? If you go underground there is even more. Some old subway stations are a real eye-catcher with their colourful pictures of tiles. The ancient metro station walls are entirely covered in tiles and even old adverts are made of them. Retiro or old Chamberí station are just two stops to enjoy the subterranean art. While Retiro is still a normally used stop in the widespread metro network, Chamberí was taken out of the system. However, people can still go down to visit the beautiful station for free, from Thursday to Sunday or have a guided tour through the underground area for just a small amount of money. Besides that, when you look out the metro window between stations Iglesia and Bilbao, you also get a glimps of what used to be a regular stop on metro line 1.


Chamberi, also called Anden 0, is one of the most historical stations

If you enjoyed reading this post come back for the next one to learn even more about Spain and its rich culture.


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