One of Madrid's most emblematic buildings is home to the Banco de España's main headquarters, representative of the work of Spanish architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Until its construction, however, the Bank carried out its business in other parts of the city.
The first general meetings of the Banco de San Carlos shareholders were held at the palace owned by the Count of Altamira while the work on the Bank's first headquarters at the Monistrol Palace, on calle de la Luna in Madrid was being completed.
In 1825, the Bank moved to a building it had acquired in calle de la Montera, and this became the headquarters of the Banco de San Fernando after its dissolution as Banco de San Carlos.
Following the merger between the Banco de Isabel II and the Banco de San Fernando, the headquarters of the former at the house of the "Cinco Gremios Mayores de Madrid" (House of the Five Major Guilds of Madrid), on calle de Atocha, became the headquarters of the new Banco de San Fernando and later of the Banco de España until it moved to the current building in 1891.
The original building
For the construction of the current headquarters of the Banco de España, the palace of the Marquis of Alcañices, situated on calle de Alcalá on the corner with the Paseo del Prado was acquired and it was decided to select by public tender the architectural project best suited to the Bank's needs.
Only four projects were submitted, none of which was to the full satisfaction of the works commission. As a result, the Bank's architects, Sainz de la Lastra and Adaro, after studying the buildings of other European banks, drew up the final project themselves, which was approved at the end of 1883.
The first foundation stone was laid on 4 July 1884 in the presence of King Alfonso XII and the monumental building was inaugurated in 1891.
Work on the first extension began in 1927 with the acquisition of adjacent houses from the Count of Santamarca on calle de Alcalá.
This extension was based on the project presented by the Bank's architect, José Yarnoz Larrosa, who proposed extending the facade, repeating the outward design of the existing building and confining the architectural innovations of the time to the interior.
The entrance gates in wrought iron outside the building are the work of the artist Bernard Asins and are extremely striking.
The second extension of the Cibeles headquarters began in 1969, based on a project designed by Javier Yarnoz Orcoyen, son of the architect responsible for the previous reform. In this phase, the Bank's building was extended along calle de los Madrazo and calle Marqués de Cubas.
In the 1970s the Bank decided to extend its headquarters yet again to include the corner of calle de Alcalá and calle Marqués de Cubas, closing the whole block and thereby guaranteeing the security of the Bank. With this in mind, the Bank had already acquired the adjacent building on 2 February 1950.
On 25 September 1978, a design competition was held to undertake what would be the last extension of the Bank to date. The architects, Oriol Buhigas Guardiola, Luis Cubillo de Arteaga, Fernando Moreno Barberá, Rafael Moneo Vallés, Eleuterio Población Knappe, Ramón Vázquez Molezún and Javier Yarnoz Orcoyen were invited to participate.
One year later, advised by a commission made up of representatives of the Madrid City Council, the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the official Madrid Architects Association, the Bank's Governing Council chose the proposal presented by Rafael Moneo and commissioned him to design the final project. However, work was unable to begin at that time because the building was listed.
The Madrid Municipal General Ordinance Plan, which lifted the protected status of the existing building, was approved in 1997. In 2003, by virtue of an agreement signed between the Madrid City Council and the Banco de España, work began on the last stage to close the block as defined in the project revised by Moneo himself in 2002.
In 2006, coinciding with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the name "Banco de España" , the extension was inaugurated. The basic elements of the original idea remained intact, based on the continuity of the facades of calle de Alcalá and the Paseo del Prado, but introducing some architectural variations which served to enrich the structure, while always respecting the existing building.
The new building has a total floor area of 4,736 square metres, which include the ground floor, three upper floors and four below ground-level.
Inside the building, noteworthy from the original 1891 structure are the staircase "of honour" and the patio which was formerly the general cashiers section and which now houses the library which boasts a cast iron structure commissioned from the Fábrica de Mieres.
The monumental Carrara marble staircase which is reached from the Paseo del Prado doorway, is an example of the most traditional architecture, designed by the Bank's architects and executed by Adolfo Areizaga, from Bilbao. Next to the staircase there is a series of magnificent symbolist-style stained glass windows, commissioned from the German firm Mayer, with numerous allegorical figures.
The extension, decided in 1927 and completed in 1934, incorporated the architectural innovations of the time in the interior of the building, which Yarnoz had ruled out for the exterior. The new trading floor, with an elevation of 27 metres and a floor surface of some 900 square meters marks a departure from classical tenets and displays certain Art Decó features. These are seen, for example, in its stained glass ceiling or the clock, which is both decorative and functional situated in the centre of the patio. The rotunda which communicates the two buildings is also worth mention, as is the extraordinary vault.