A key event took place in the 18th century; it is the time when the city acquired the true proportions of a capital. Until that time, the relationship between the Court and City had simply been that the city had been the settlement for the court. There is no integration of the population and the court, which established its own area near, but outside the city: the Retiro.

This aspect changed in that century. From that moment, the Court extended its influence over everything in the city. The City became the Court and thus the true capital of the absolute state. This conception is accompanied by the treatment which Madrid received in this period in the form of "improvements".

The Bourbons were the promoters of these "improvements".

The figure of Charles III (1759-1788) in this context became a reference point for the urban development plans of the period. He is fortunate enough to be able to carry out ideas and projects designed during the reign of his father and brother (Philip V and Ferdinand VI), and to develop new ones which will be carried out in time, under Charles IV or after 1814.

Although the structure of Madrid did not change, its future development as a metropolis was prepared: the treatment given to the edges of the city - the urban development of the outskirts - is the best example of this renovating if not transforming spirit of the daily Madrid. With it appear public buildings as organizing factors of the city which define the new dimension as a capital.


Suggested itinerary:

1 - The Post House: The main building of the Sun Gate and the only one preserved the 19th century remodelling of the square. It was used for one of the services that were reorganized in that period and it was built by the french architect Jaime Marquet, between 1766 and 1768. The neo-classical facade and its two identical inner court are the main characteristics of the building. The project dates from the reign of Ferdinand VI and today it is seat of the Presidency of the Autonomous Community of Madrid.

2 - The Royal Courier House: This building belonged to the one just described and was built in the times of Charles IV, between 1775 and 1800. It stands on Pontejos Square behind the Post House and was built by Pedro Arnal. It is a good example of neo-classical architecture. Today it houses departments of the Community of Madrid.

3 - The Royal Customs House: In Alcala St. (numbers 5, 7, 9 and 11), it is another building of public type, constructed during the reign of Charles III. It serves to organize the area and its facade is the guideline for the street. It was built by the King's favorite architect, Francisco Sabatini, between 1761 and 1769. Its main characteristics include three inner court, two of them identical as from the centre of the portal which is of great simplicity, and the alternating triangular and curve cornices of the windows of the main floor.

4 - The Royal Academy of Fine Arts: The Goyeneche Palace, built by Jose Benito Churriguera in 1725, was chosen to house this institution, a clear exponent of bourbon cultural policy. In the reign of Charles III, in 1774, Diego Villanueva remodelled the facade to suit the neo-classical taste of the time. This transformation is considered by the specialists to be the end of a period and the beginning of another. It is located at 13, Alcalá Street

5 - The Gracia Gentleman's Oratory: located at the number 5 of the street of the same name. It is a small church designed in 1786 and totally finished in 1795, and it is considered to be one of the masterpieces of neo-classical architecture in Madrid. It was built by Juan Villanueva, inspired by Palladio's style.

6 - Saint Joseph Church: on Alcala Street and the corner of Gran Via. It was built by Pedro Ribera between 1733 and 1742 during the reign of Philip V. Ribera was one of the best exponents of the century 18th baroque architecture, which disappeared after the construction of the Royal Palace. It may serve as an example of comparison with the neo-classical models built in the second half of the century.



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