Oddity can be found lurking among the old buildings, narrow streets, and seemingly endless construction of Madrid. Whether you're walking through the busy plazas or just strolling along quiet sidewalks, you’ll most likely find the unexpected. That’s exactly the case with the Museo ABC, which is located in the heart of Madrid but which is hardly part of the tourist traps.
You won’t find the Museo ABC among Madrid’s prized golden triangle of museums. It’s not along the famed Gran Via or the Paseo de la Castellana. It’s quietly located on a nondescript residential street and hardly noticeable until you’re almost in front of it.
Designed in the early 20th century by José López Salaberry, the building was the first Mahou brewery in Spain. In 2006, the architectural firm Aranguren y Gallegos refurbished the 10,000 sq. ft. (approx. 929 m2) building to serve as an art center, the ABC Drawing and Illustration Museum. Multiple exhibition rooms, family workshops, a restoration laboratory, and a “floating” cafeteria can be found among the building’s expansive six floors.
The Museo ABC pays tribute to Spain’s oldest operating newspaper, ABC. The daily newspaper dedicated its impressive collection of newspaper art illustrations by such artists as Mingote, Francisco Martín Morales, and Ramón Casas to be displayed in the art center. The museum’s interior is a clean, minimalist environment that perfectly showcases the historic collection of illustrations covering more than 100 years of Spanish history. According to the museum’s curator, Juan Manuel Bonet, the collection offers a unique perspective on the art history of the Iberian Peninsula. “The ABC Collection is a must for anyone wanting to find out about the mechanics of Spanish illustration, caricature art, and drawing in the 20th century,” Manuel Bonet says.
Aranguren y Gallegos have drawn inspiration from the collection itself, as is common with modern design these days. The visitor’s tour really begins on the outside of the Museo ABC, which at first glance appears to have been drawn, rather than built. The design incorporates the cube-like brick exterior of the old Mahou brewery, which sits askew of the connecting bridge and a shimmering metallic wall, creating a stark, asymmetric hybrid of materials and shapes.
The first thing to catch the unsuspecting eye is the glass “beam” that hovers over the entrance. Set with scattered, intersecting white steel slants, the enclosed bridge houses the museum’s cafeteria and allows visitors to peer onto the interior patio, where the museum dramatically sets itself apart from its neighbors.
Under the floating bridge and in the interior plaza of the Museo ABC, a blue annealed steel wall literally and figuratively shines. Creating an M.C. Escher-esque effect, the patio floor is also covered in silver scalene triangles and glass cutouts that serve as skylights for the interior of the building.
Aranguren y Gallegos refer to the architecture used in the Museo ABC as a “tensioned vacuum” and a “spatial dihedron." Although such architectural lingo may be apt, the most poignant characteristic of the Museo ABC is its self-assumed responsibility to reflect Spain’s history through the perspective of art and illustration.
Nicole graduated from Georgia State University with a Post Graduate degree in Spanish to English Translation and a B.A. in Spanish and International Business. Presently living in Madrid, Nicole works as a freelance writer and translator and enjoys traveling around the Iberian peninsula taking photos of Spain's rich blend of historic and modern architecture. Her articles and photos have been published in various trade publications and websites.Website: www.passtheham.com/