Conde Duque was reborn in 1983 as a cultural centre, after serving as the barracks of the Royal Guard Corps since 1717. The centre went through a complete transformation, which began in 2005, the year in which the Conde Duque Master Plan was presented. This plan was completed in 2011 and consisted of a complete renovation of the building, which now makes 58.777 m² available to the people of Madrid, compared to the previously usable 48.512 m². The plan also involved relocation to the North Patio of the already existing offices dedicated to basic cultural services, including the City Archive (Archivo de Villa), the Municipal History Library (Biblioteca Histórica), the Conde Duque Public Library (Biblioteca Pública Conde Duque), the Municipal History Library (Hemeroteca Municipal) and the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art of Madrid (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Madrid). In turn, the spaces devoted to cultural programming and promotion were moved to the South Patio, including the Music and Exhibition Rooms, the Theatre and the Events Room.
The magnitude of the current Conde Duque project should not let us forget the building’s previous ‘lives,’ in which it was a national reference point for contemporary art exhibitions and specially a careful guardian of the historical memory of Madrid.
In the eighties, Conde Duque was a melting pot of the ideas and cultural projects that the decade produced. Conde Duque was an active participant in the many cultural movements of the era, a time when artists of all types and backgrounds passed through its doors. During this time the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art was also being transformed into what would later become the Reina Sofia National Art Museum. The Conde Duque cultural centre filled the gap that this transformation made with an exhibition programme that concentrated on 20th century Spanish art, the Madrid School, and collections of living artists. It was during these years that Luis Caruncho directed the centre, until 1991, and then again during 1993 – 1995. During this time, Conde Duque offered two temporary exhibition rooms on the lower floor (the Pedro de Ribera and Juan de Villanueva Rooms, another on the first floor (the Juan Gris Room) and an events room.
Throughout the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium, Conde Duque continued to grow in its range of installations, activities and ambitions. Under the direction of Antonio Maura (1991 – 1993) the centre incorporated an auditorium for classical music and took part in many of the city’s celebrations including Madrid: European Capital of Culture 1992, with expositions such as VideoClip 92, European Panorama of Video Art (Panorama europeo del Videoarte ) and Proposals for a Dreamt-of Madrid (Propuestas para un Madrid soñado (de Texeira a Castro). Under third Conde Duque director Álvaro Martínez Novillo (1995-2000) the centre continued to develop, with two new temporary exhibition rooms (the Vaulted Room and Gallery 98). Its exhibition, concert and activity programme also increased considerably. Many will still remember the first sole exhibitions of artists who had previously been excluded from the city’s standard cultural programming such as Isabel Quintanilla, Paco López Hernández, Ouka Lele, Manolo Hugué, Ops/El Roto/Andrés Rábago, Dis Berlin and Sigfrido Martín Begué. The summer music festival Los Veranos de la Villa, a key annual event in the city, also took place on Conde Duque’s popular Central Terrace during the nineties and during the start of the new millennium.
From the year 2000, under the direction of fourth director Juan Carrete, the centre surprised the city of Madrid by involving itself in a line of work that was unlike anything else that the centre had previously participated in. It involved a studio of digital art called Medialab, which took up a large part of the cultural centre’s space and programming.
Today, after the opening of the new installations, inaugurated in 2011, and a complete reorganisation of the centre, Conde Duque has become an essential pillar of Madrid’s cultural activity. It is proud to be one of the city’s three large metropolitan cultural centres, alongside Matadero Madrid Contemporary Arts Centre and CentroCentro.
1. The Lobby
© Paco Gómez
2. The Events Room
3. Exhibition Rooms
4. The Municipal Newspaper Library
© Paco Gómez
5. The Old Stables
© Paco Gómez
6. Access to the Auditorium
7. The Music Cabins in the Biblioteca Musical Víctor Espinós
© Paco Gómez
Conde Duque strives to facilitate an understanding of the present through knowing and exploring the past, with the goal of promoting a more inclusive and diverse culture. The ultimate aim is to implement cultural content and rationality into the management of its services and spaces.
Combining the use of basic public services that conserve and promote our heritage with an attractive programme of cultural promotion is the ideal that makes up the essence of this centre, which is one of the trio of Large Urban Spaces on Madrid’s cultural map, alongside CentroCentro and Matadero Madrid Contemporary Arts Centre.
Conde Duque’s mission can be summarised in three strategic paths, each one of which is organised around a means of understanding culture.
+ Historic culture: To conserve, present and project culture, establishing a bridge between the present, the times in which we are living, and the cultural memory that is preserved in the various institutions that are based at Conde Duque, in a way in which a relationship between tradition and the contemporary is established.
+ Culture as a form of knowledge and education: Conde Duque promotes a vision of culture that is based on learning and educational initiatives, through which the intention is an ‘orientation’ of the citizen in the knowledge of arts and ideas.
+ Culture as life: This encompasses human relations; cohabitation, relationships with the area and, ultimately, the city, public participation and shared initiatives. To listen, coordinate and collaborate together to create projects.
1. The South Terrace
Philip V, the first King of Spain from the House of Bourbon began construction at the end of 1717. The building was to be the barracks of the Royal Guard Corps, an elite military body who protected the King and were well known, not only for their prestige, but also for their extravagant uniforms. Philip V commissioned the Madrilenian architect, Pedro de Ribera to design a building “that could house 600 guards and 400 horses.”
The building is considered to be the last great example of Madrilenian architecture pre- introduction of the Italian style that was first seen in the new Royal Palace (1738-1755). Ribera designed a vast, rectangular building that achieves a harmony of functionality and beauty. For many years it was the largest building in the capital, with more than 25,000 m2 of floor space and a 228 m facade. The building also includes a monumental carved stone entrance that was initially criticised by the Classicists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a large central plaza, two lateral terraces and ample space for the stables. By 1730, the barracks of the Royal Guard Corps was almost completed.
During the nineteenth century it was a military academy, astronomic observatory and part of the optical telegraph system – its telegraph tower was a key point of communication between Madrid and Irún. In 1869 a fire devastated the Conde Duque barracks, destroying the upper floors and almost completely wiping out the tower on the eastern facade that had been used as a prison and had shown off the building’s decadent style.
In 1969, Conde Duque experienced two of the biggest changes of its almost two and a half centuries of existence: Its ownership and use. An agreement was made between the council and the central barracks committee (Junta Central del Acuartelamiento) to acquire the buildings known as the ‘Conde Duque’s Barracks.’ The buildings then ceased to have a military function and their rehabilitation for cultural use was begun by Madrid’s city council, under the direction of the architect Julio Cano Lasso.
In 1975 there was a proposal to tear down the buildings; however its declaration as a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1976 prevented this from happening. Then, in 1983 Conde Duque began its life as a cultural centre funded by Madrid city council. In the eighties it pioneered the diffusion of contemporary cultural events and continued through the nineties and into the new millennium with its great variety, and always indisputable quality, of events.
Following a master plan that was formalised in 2005, a complete refurbishment of the building took place in 2011, marking a new era for Conde Duque. Both the exterior and interior facades have been restored, as well as the exposed brick work, the original windows and apertures and the original ceiling heights, which had all previously disappeared or been altered. Aside from the architectural and structural refurbishments of the building, Conde Duque has also been reinvented thanks to a new project that radically widens this timeless institute’s horizons.
1. The Conde Duque Central Terrace
Conde Duque can be found in the university district, or Universidad, right in the centre of Madrid and bordered by the streets, or calles, Princesa, Gran Vía, Fuencarral, Carranza and Alberto Aguilera, takes its name from the Central University, which was founded in 1843 on San Bernardo Street in the old Jesuit Noviate.
Universidad is an area that stands out for two great reasons: for its wide and rich heritage and for its concentration of cultural activity, owing to the many institutions, associations, entrepreneurs and organisations that reside there. It is a true cultural melting pot, offering some of the best entertainment to be had in Madrid. The area is widely known as Malasaña, in reference to the seamstress Manuela Malasaña who was assassinated by Napoleon’s troops during the Dos de Mayo uprising in 1808. She was accused of carrying a weapon when she was, in fact, only carrying scissors – a necessity of her trade.
The monumental building of the Conde Duque shares the neighbourhood with the Convent of the Knights of Santiago (Convento de las Comendadoras de Santiago el Mayor), Liria Palace, the Complutense University of Madrid (previously housed in the old Jesuit Novitiate, but currently in the Spanish Institute) and the Telefónica building, to name but a few of the area’s patrimonial treasures. Add to that cultural organisations such as the ABC Museum of Drawing and Illustration (el Museo ABC de Dibujo e Ilustración) the Amaniel Professional Conservatory of Music (Conservatorio Profesional de Música Amaniel), the Higher School of Singing (La Escuela Superior de Canto de Madrid), the School of Creative Music (la Escuela de Música Creativa), BlankPaper or the Telefónica foundation.
1. One of Conde Duque's Facades
Conde Duque is one of the three extensive cultural spaces that belongs to Madrid city council’s Department of Art, Sports and Tourism (el Área de Gobierno de las Artes, Deportes y Turismo del Ayuntamiento de Madrid). The other two facilities are the Matadero Madrid Contemporary Arts Centre and CentroCentro. The four other organisations and municipal departments that are involved in the development of these facilities are: the General Directorate of Museums and Music (Dirección General de Museos y Música), the General Directorate of Libraries and Archives (Dirección General de Bibliotecas y Archivos), the General Directorate of Heritage and Urban Environment (Dirección General de Patrimonio y Paisaje Urbano) and the Madrid Public Enterprise of Art and Culture (la empresa pública Madrid Arte y Cultura). These four departments and a public enterprise run an integrated management system without interfering in each others’ specialised areas. The organisation with overall responsibility for the direction and management of Conde Duque is the General Directorate of Museums and Music.
The General Directorate of Museums and Music is responsible for the direction, management and creation of museums and council-held collections (among which stand out the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art of Madrid (el Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo de Madrid), whose headquarters are located in Conde Duque, and both headquarters Madrid’s History Museum (Museo de Historia de Madrid), the direction and management of museum spaces and buildings that are appointed to the administrative area and which are open to the public (such as the Debod Temple, Castillo de la Alameda and the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida (la Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida), the promotion of musical projects, initiatives and performances that are carried out in centres attached to the General Directorate, and the general council and guidance of music-related matters in the region. Their responsibilities also include the direction and management of the Municipal Planetarium and the Municipal Symphonic Band of Madrid, among others.
Conde Duque also houses several organisations that offer a public service. Many of these are directed by the General Directorate of Libraries and Archives such as the town archive and various libraries, including the municipal newspaper library, the municipal history library, a specialised music library and a public library.
Conde Duque is one of the three extensive cultural facilities that belongs to Madrid city council’s Department of Art, Sports and Tourism. The other two facilities are the Matadero Madrid Contemporary Arts Centre and CentroCentro.