Inspired by London’s iconic Crystal Palace, Madrid’s Palacio de Cristal is equally dazzling. Designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, the architectural marvel was erected in 1887 - a giant wrought iron and glass domed structure standing at the heart of the central Retiro Park. Largely regarded as one of Spain’s most unique 19th century structures, the palace is built in the shape of a Greek cross and stands on a brick base, decorated with a ceramic frieze.
Initially housing a mock ‘Philippino village’, the 54-meter-long building was once filled with native plants and exotic flora in ode to the Spanish colony of the Philippines. Today, the palace is used as a contemporary art exhibition space but retains its bucolic surroundings, fronted by a pretty swan lake and encircled by lush woodlands. The interiors are equally breathtaking, with light refracting through the glass and the angled panes causing a prism-like effect at certain times of the day.
Most enthralling is the building’s unique achievement of blending art, architecture and nature, with the natural light casting an iridescent sheen over the art installations displayed inside and the exterior glass panels reflecting the changing shades of the parkland through the seasons.