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The collection of the Museo Picasso Málaga is housed in Buenavista Palace. Located in the heart of the city’s historic quarter, it is a splendid example of sixteenth-century Andalusian architecture, with a blend of Renaissance and Mudéjar elements.
Buenavista Palace was built by Diego de Cazalla, paymaster of the royal navy and army, who participated in the Christian conquest of Málaga in 1487. It was erected atop the ruins of a Nasrid palace, some elements of which are still extant—for instance, the tower east of the main courtyard.
Castilian, Italian and Moorish influences converge in this elegant, understated building, originally known as the Palace of the Counts of Mollina and later renamed Palace of the Counts of Buenavista, as the family changed with different marriage alliances over the centuries. It remained a noble family residence until the late nineteenth century, and was later used as a tenement, school, furniture factory, carpenter’s shop and hospital until finally being declared a National Monument in 1939.
In 1946, the national government leased the palace from its owners to house the Provincial Fine Arts Museum, which opened in 1961 and remained there until 1997, when the Regional Government of Andalusia acquired it to become the home of the future Museo Picasso Málaga. Buenavista Palace met all the requirements: an ‘old and secular’ building—in accordance with Picasso’s express wish—in the heart of historic Málaga, a typical Andalusian palace to house a fabulous collection.
The building today
As Buenavista Palace was too small for a modern museum, fifteen houses located behind the building were gradually purchased to add a new wing. Several adjacent structures were refurbished and new ones erected around Plaza de la Higuera to form a small museum-city of simple, cubic white shapes inspired by Andalusian tradition. These new buildings now house the temporary exhibitions, workshops, bookshop, library, offices and auditorium, leaving the original palace for the permanent collection.
Richard Gluckman (Gluckman Mayner Architects) designed the renovation and expansion of this museum complex, working with Isabel Cámara and Rafael Martín Delgado (Cámara Martín Delgado Arquitectos) and the ARUP engineering firm, and María Medina handled the landscaping.
In 2006, the Museo Picasso Málaga project received the American Institute of Architects’ Honor Award for Architecture. According to this jury, ‘this project skillfully balances restoration and new interventions. It is appropriately modest, weaving a museum into the fabric of this Mediterranean city. The new sections are simply and elegantly inserted in the setting and surroundings of a sixteenth-century palace, outdoor courtyards and city streets.’
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The ground beneath Buenavista Palace is riddled with traces of the city’s past. Exceptional Phoenician and Roman remains, as well as the rooms of the old Renaissance palace, offer visitors a partial glimpse of Málaga’s rich history.
Málaga has been continuously occupied for nearly 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in western Europe. Around the eighth century BC, the Phoenicians founded Malaka on the lower slopes of the hill now crowned by the Alcazaba. From the beginning, the town was a bustling hub of economic activity based on mining, purple production and the salt-fish industry.
After coming under Punic control in the sixth century BC, it was eventually conquered by the Romans following the Second Punic War (late third century BC) and renamed Malaca. Though integrated in one of the Roman provinces, it retained its privileges as a civitas foederata or allied city. The flourishing fishing industry confirmed Malaca’s status as a centre of trade. After the Roman Empire disintegrated, the Visigoths ruled this territory. The city steadily declined during those years, except in the period of Byzantine occupation when it was probably an important imperial capital.
In 711 the city fell to the Arabs and became part of the emirate based in Córdoba. Starting in the tenth century, the city recovered its prominence in southern Iberia as the primary port of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, through which its most important products were shipped. In 1487, Málaga was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs.
An archaeological site has been preserved underneath the palace, where visitors can see various remains:
· Late seventh/early sixth-century BC structures corresponding to part of a Phoenician residence
· Phoenician wall built in the early sixth century BC that protected the north side of the city, where one of the gates probably stood
· Phoenician tower from the second city wall built in the late sixth century BC
· Inner rooms of a Phoenician tower along the second city wall built in the late sixth century BC, which presumably stood by a city gate
· Greco-Italic amphora from the late third–early second century BC
· Remnants of vats from a Roman salt-fish factory active from the third to the fifth century AD, which made fish-based products, like the famous garum, that were exported to Rome
· Sixteenth-century cobblestone street for the carriage entrance to the Palace of the Counts of Buenavista
· Remains of the original sixteenth-century flooring from the basement of the Palace of the Counts of Buenavista, with large earthenware food storage jars embedded in the floor