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 baroque carved stone entrance, 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.
The building is considered to be the last great example of Madrilenian architecture pre- introduction of the Italian style
In 1869 a fire devastated the Conde Duque barracks, destroying the upper floors and almost completely wiping out the tower on the eastern facade