This exhibition is the public presentation of the Edificio Sabatini restoration project, previously the Madrid Hospital building, and its conversion into the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The remodelling process, started in 1980 under the supervision of the architect Antonio Fernández Alba (Salamanca, 1927), was prolonged until 1986 when it began to house exhibition activities, although in actual fact the history of the building dates back to the eighteenth century.
Under the initiative of Carlos III, and in line with a series of measures designed to provide Madrid with health and urban infrastructures, the building of the Hospital de San Carlos gets underway. The building takes its name from Francisco Sabatini (Palermo, Italy, 1722 - Madrid, 1797), the erudite architect from the Bourbon courts of Southern Italy who is commissioned to design and oversee its construction. Sabitini opted for a Neo-classical style with a Late Renaissance influence.
The death of the Monarch in 1788 left the building unfinished, though soon after it started to be used as a hospital and remained so and in use up until 1965. Following years of abandonment and numerous threats of demolition, in 1977 it was declared a Monument of Art and History, ensuring its survival and public use after its remodelling.
This exhibition is split into three parts as it looks at the restoration of the Madrid General Hospital as well as other projects undertaken by Ministry of Culture regarding cultural infrastructures, finishing with a detailed description of the layout of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It begins by providing information on the perspectives and floor designs of the building through the use of different maps and plans, which outline the restoration process and look to emphasise the original architectural features, stressing the simplicity of the facades with the absence of pillars and the predominance of walls.
The interior spaces, in gradual decline with the passing of time, recover their spacial definition with the employment of an aesthetic that does not possess formal decoration and the recurring use of white. The renovation of the space in its function as “venue”, “transition” and “door” can be seen as it conforms to the substantive nature of this particular activity.
The second part of the exhibition presents a selection of infrastructure works, spread out over twenty-eight tables, implemented by the Ministry of Culture, including the restoration of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Projects such as the Museo Romano de Mérida, the expansion of MEAC (Museum of Contemporary Art), the restoration of the Burgos Cathedral, the National Auditorium and Theatres appear together in the groups: Museums, Restorations, Archives, Libraries, Auditoriums and Theatres.
Lastly, the exhibition focuses on the present of the Centro de Arte by exhibiting the urban history of the building, from its beginnings as a hospital and its position on the edge of the city (the Puerta de Atocha) to the central location it boasts today within the metropolitan area. The models displayed bear witness to the building's recent history, which includes the demolition projects and the restoration process in its final transformation. To close, there is an audiovisual piece that outlines the content of the exhibition and takes a look at the history of the current Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and its projection into the future.