The CentroCentro exhibition space in Palacio de Cibeles (formerly the Palacio de Correos and now the City Hall) has become an emblematic venue as well as a bridge towards other great cities tackling similar 21st century challenges. Urban life is the thread running through its exhibition programme.
This architectural gem which was built in 1904 by the Palacios-Otamendi partnership of architects was never really intended for public use, so its renovation proved a considerable technical challenge. Thanks to major renovations carried out by Francisco Rodríguez Partearroyo over a six-year period and completed recently, the edifice now also serves as a state-of-the-art cultural venue, equipped with sustainable systems. During the refurbishment many existing areas were modernised, including the former Operations Courtyard (which once housed the postal, telegraph and telephone services), the third, fourth and fifth floors (now large exhibition halls) and the 70-metre tower, which offers 360º views over the city. New spaces were also added, like the Glass Gallery and the Auditorium, which seats 296 people and was specially designed for chamber music.
Palacio de Cibeles' location, in the heart of the city and at the start of the Art Walk, has played a major part in turning this area into one of the world's most attractive spots for art and culture. In 2005, 5.5 million people had visited the Art Walk, by 2010 that figure had doubled. Now it has a new attraction: CentroCentro, a platform for debate and reflection, drawing together experts, artists and the public to make Madrid a creative city and a magnet for talent, technology and economic development.
In addition to all this, two social areas have been set up in the Palace's former Operations Courtyard, inviting visitors to stay a while. These areas provide a space where people can meet, read and rest; they also offer City of Madrid reference material, catalogues and publications about current exhibitions along the Art Walk, daily and specialist newspapers, and iPads for browsing the Internet and checking out cultural events on the Art Walk. Near these social areas are two large street maps showing the 59 institutions, monuments and buildings of special interest that make the Art Walk such a wonderfully diverse experience.