As noted earlier, since its creation in 1819, the Museo del Prado grew in a systematic but relatively modest way, resulting in a longstanding need for a large-scale extension project of the type that other historic museums of comparable importance had undertaken in the last decades of the 20th century: the National Gallery of Washington between 1971 and 1978; the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1970 and 1990; the National Gallery of London between 1985 and 1991; and the Musée du Louvre in two phases between 1989 and 1993. Aside from differences relating to size and requirements, these extensions all shared the aim of responding for the first time to the contemporary transformation of these great historical museums into increasingly dynamic cultural centres with constantly growing visitor numbers. In the case of the Museo del Prado, there were no remaining options for gaining more space in the Villanueva building. Various different ideas were consequently proposed in the 1980s.
1995. The Parliamentary Pact and the first Competition for the Extension
In the early 1990s, and in response to varying requirements, it was generally felt that the Prado should expand by recuperating the last surviving remains of the Buen Retiro Palace (the Casón and Salón de Reinos, the latter the home of the Museo del Ejército [Army Museum]) and possibly the former Jerónimos Cloister. This idea focused around the concept of emphasising the Museum’s historical origins. In accordance with this proposal, in June 1994 the Museum’s Royal Board of Trustees approved a “Requirement Plan for the Museo del Prado” that emphasised the need to increase its floor space. The report was presented to the Council of Ministers by the then Minister of Culture, Carmen Alborch, and received the agreement of the principal political parties in a unique Parliamentary Pact.
As a result, the first architectural competition was announced in March 1995. This competition explicitly stated that proposals should include the incorporation of the above-mentioned buildings into the Villanueva building. Despite the fact that more than 700 architects entered, and the subsequent selection by the jury of 10 projects to be entered into a second round, in September 1995 the competition was unanimously declared void although two entries were awarded second prizes.
1997-2001. The definitive guidelines for the extension. Moneo's project
In 1997, the Museum’s Royal Board of Trustees approved a report that established a Museological Plan which opted for the idea of expansion onto adjacent areas. It proposed that the Prado should expand over nearby and if possible contiguous buildings. This encouraged the idea of including the Jerónimos Cloister as well as the Casón and Salón de Reinos. As a result of this report, presented to the Council of Ministers by the then Minister of Culture, Esperanza Aguirre, and endorsed by that body, the Ministry reached an agreement with the Archbishopric of Madrid through which the Cloister would be available as part of the Museum’s expansion project.
Set out in an Agreement signed in July 1998 by the Ministry of Culture and the Archdiocese of Madrid, this decision allowed for the organisation of a new architectural competition, whose guidelines conformed to the report approved by the Museum’s Royal Board of Trustees and the agreement with the Church. On this occasion, the competition was by invitation and was limited to the ten finalists of the previous one. In 1998 Rafael Moneo’s project, entitled BUEN RETIRO, was unanimously selected, albeit with some modifications suggested by the jury, which comprised representatives of the Museum, the Government, the Regional Government of Madrid, the City Council and the Church.
Rafael Moneo’s project was approved by the Board of Trustees on 15 March 2000 and unanimously and definitively ratified by the jury one week later, on 21 March 2000..
2001-2007. The execution of the extension project. The Museo del Prado Campus
On 2 February 2001, following the necessary studies to evaluate the state of preservation of the Jerónimos Cloister and the preliminary work to consolidate its structural elements, work began on dismantling its arcading in order to restore and subsequently replace it as the starting-point for construction work on the extension project. Dismantling of the Cloister began in March and the restoration work, carried out under the supervision of the Instituto de Patrimonio Histórico Español (IPHE), took several months..
On 7 January 2002 the Boletín Oficial del Estado published the concession of the contract for the building work to the Unión Temporal de Empresas (UTE “El Prado”), comprising ACS and Constructora San José, awarded by the Gerencia de Infraestructuras y Equipamientos of the Ministry of Culture.
In November 2003 Parliament passed the Law governing the Museo del Prado with a large majority, resulting in the creation of a public body that would manage the Museum from that point onwards.
On 20 October 2004, the Royal Board of Trustees approved the Action Plan for this new body, deciding at this point on the creation of the Museum’s new Study Centre [the Escuela del Prado], which would be installed in the Casón del Buen Retiro. It also decided to incorporate the Museum’s 19th-century collections into the museological arrangement of the permanent collection in the Villanueva building. This decision marked the definitive acceptance of the plan for the Museo del Prado Campus.
On 22 July 2005, acting on the proposal of the then Minister of Culture, Camen Calvo, the Council of Ministers agreed to a one-off financial injection of 44.6 million Euros intended to guarantee the completion of work on the extension project.