Headquarters

The Royal Academy of Engineering has its headquarters in the palace of the Marquis of Villafranca, in the historical centre of Madrid, very near to Bailén street, Las Vistillas and the Royal Palace. Building work began back in the 17th century, being completed in the 18th century by the 5th Marquis of Villafranca, Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, the namesake of the street where the building is located.

 

By means of the Ministerial Order of 31st May 2005 by the Ministry of Education and Science, the use of the public part of the palace was ceded to the Royal Academy of Engineering in exchange for the commitment by the latter to restore the building.

 

The Royal Academy of Engineering covered the cost of the restoration project after raising the necessary funds to do so, with contributions by the Ministry of Public Works through its 1% culture budget and, to a large extent, by some of the companies in the Pro Rebus Academiae Foundation, more specifically Grupo Villar Mir, Telefónica and Repsol YPF. The restoration work not only dealt with restoring the rooms in the Academy, but also reinstating all the artistic elements in their original places, meaning that today, in the 21st century, the history of these rooms can still be felt.

 

When the restoration work on the building was completed on November 16th 2010, the King of Spain officially opened the headquarters of the Royal Academy of Engineering. The work on the building began in 2007 with the authorisation of the property restoration project by the Ministry of Education and Science.

 

The history of the property shows the progressive development of the site from the medieval city wall, moving on to the choice of the site by the Infantado and Villafranca families and the subsequent evolution of the urban development through to the 19th century. The Palace, built between 1717 and 1734 under the supervision of the architect Francisco Ruiz, coincided with the gradual establishment in Madrid of the Alvarez de Toledo family, which reached its maximum splendour through the union with the Medina Sidionia and Alba families as a result of the wedding between the 11th Marquis Jose Alvarez de Toledo and Cayetana de Silva. After this period, the 19th century was witness to the rise of a new noble class based on agricultural and industrial success, and particularly that of Pérez-Seoana y Roca de Togores family, the Barons of Riudoms, appointed Duke of Pinohermoso in 1790 and Grandee of Spain in 1794 by Charles IV of Spain. This family acquired the palace in 1872 and was responsible for organising the décor lasting through to our day, in which an important role was played by the architect Arturo Mélida, and which the current restoration process has returned to its original splendour.

 

The 20th century saw the gradual disintegration of the property. In 1965, the noble part was sold to the restaurant Puerta de Moros which occupied it until 1989. The same year, the Agencia del Aceite de Oliva (Olive Oil Agency) converted it into their administration services centre until May 12th 2005, when the Royal Academy of Engineering was ceded the use of the building.

 

All this was described in the work La Sede de la Real Academia de Ingeniería. Historia del Palacio de los Marqueses de Villafranca (The Headquarters of the Royal Academy of Engineering. The History of the Palace of the Marquises of Villafranca) a complete study of the origins and vicissitudes of the Palace, with the academy member Enrique Alarcón taking charge of management of the building in 2008. It was carried out by a group of pupils of the member Josefina Gomez Mendoza, comprised of Ángela García Carballo, Gonzalo Madrazo García de Lomana and Juan Francisco Mato Miguel.

 

In 2011, one of the objectives set was to enhance public awareness about the newly restored facilities of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the former palace of the Marquis of Villafranca. Through guided tours, a large number of people can find out more about this historical building which, among many other notable items, has a section of the Christian city wall, perfectly conserved dating back to the 12th century, a large scale copy of an original by Rubens called The Regent, lamps, carved ceilings, mirrors and a 19th-century iron gallery by the architect Arturo Mélida.

 

Throughout 2011 many groups and cultural associations visited us. Likewise, the hits on our website increased in order to find out more about the history of the palace and to see the most representative images of our head office.