Apart from increasing the tourists, the most striking effect (and that will leave a mark in the long run) is the beautification of the city. This type of intervention is repeated in other Spanish cities after the success of Bilbao. Not far from there, the Botin Center has just been inaugurated in Santander in June 2017. We will be expectant about what happens in the city from now on.
In the case of Malaga, the construction of the Picasso Museum has marked a turning point in the recent history of the city. The building, which formerly housed the Museum of Fine Arts of the city, now restored and expanded, was inaugurated by the Kings of Spain in 2003. Days before the opening I remember the streets where the royal itinerary was planned. These were arranged, painted, embellished… what is commonly known as a facelift.
And that was the first time in a long time that many Malaga citizens looked up to admire an architecture that had been forgotten after years of abandon and neglect from its owners. An architecture that passers-by, who filled the center of the city every day, just ignored. An architecture of high ceilings, windows and wooden balconies, railing designs, colored glass and wall paintings simulating noble materials and architectural elements.
The museum project had a direct effect on its closest environment, which began to recover and to revalue itself. But not just this. The archaeological works carried out in the very Picasso Museum met the people of Malaga with their distant ancestors. It was possible to date with more precision the moment of the foundation of the city, about the VIIIth century B.C, by the Phoenicians. It was found under the museum part of the city wall and some houses, all Phoenicians, which can now be visited at the basement of the museum.
This discovery gave a new impetus to the pride of Malaga, which, like its architecture, had been in a state of hibernation waiting for better times. In fact, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Malaga was known as “the beautiful”, although many wondered what was left of all that.
This reaffirmation of our history, along with the recovery of the historic center, have made the people of Malaga to be proud of their city. And all because of a project that, although having been so important for the city, has camouflaged itself in the urban scene and avoided being a star building in the skyline of Malaga. The prominence the museum could have claimed architecturally has been yielded totally to the protagonist of its content, Picasso.
In this case, we are not talking about a star building. He does not intend it. And that is where its greatness lies. It has managed to receive the baton of centuries of history and translate it into a 21st century building fully integrated and respectful with its surroundings. On one hand, renovating the Palace of Buenavista, construction of the sixteenth century which has its base in another previous arab palace. On the other, inserted in the surrounding town of the eighteenth century, in what had previously been the Jewish quarter of the city.
And as a gift, an archaeological site with part of the Phoenician city. Some say there is even an Arab bath under the museum courtyard, but it was left without being dug. We are not sure of that, but in Malaga we are not surprised anymore these kind of things happen.
Anyway, what we are sure of is that thanks to this museum has been restored not only a building, not even a historic center, but the pride of the people of Malaga who can now speak again of their city as Malaga the beautiful.