Four days in Madrid and five visits to the 350 acre Parque del Retiro – a boating lake, turtles, perfectly manicured gardens and rough spaces for napping, reading, picnicking, as well as two gallery spaces, it never gets old!
Amble number three led me to the Palacio de Cristal, a three-storey tall greenhouse of glass, iron and ceramic work; once home to plants from the Philippines, and currently masquerading as the SPLENDIDE HOTEL.
We revisit 1887, the year that the Palacio was built and during which the Hotel Splendide in Lugano was opened – the name having previously come into being in Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Après le Déluge, published in 1886. Splendide was also the name of the hotel in Évian-les-Bains, where Marcel Proust holidayed with his family.
Gonzalez-Foerster’s practice consistently invites the viewer to take a journey through space and time, via literature – here in the form of texts tied to rocking chairs. Whilst the Palacio is dotted with ornate nineteenth century furniture, infiltrated by an impenetrable glass room which mimics the original architecture and its façade is stamped with a gaudy green HOTEL sign, the main pleasure of the piece is its quietude.
HOTEL SPLENDIDE is most successful in allowing us to appreciate the beauty of this vast glass structure as it was first constructed; looking out upon the park from within is something like taking the position of the 19th century flaneur, viewing the world from glass-covered Parisian arcades.