‘Open House Madrid’ Is a Peek Into City’s Hidden Gems

October 22, 2016 by


While tourists may flock to famous landmarks all over the world, some of the great architectural wonders of major cities remain closed to general audiences. Like here in Madrid, Spain where I am living now.

The Open House Worldwide family came together in 2010 to invite the public into such buildings, with the goal of starting a discussion about design, sustainability and gentrification between experts and citizens alike.


Open House Madrid participated for the second year in this free event. From what I’ve observed on the guided tours,  some of the most interesting buildings that have found a way to make green space and sustainability a priority.

In this program, cities from five continents–including New York and Chicago in the US–have welcomed people in to architecturally significant buildings, with over one million participants to date.


Mercado de San Miguel and Mercato de San Antoni
Madrid’s best known market, Mercado de San Miguel, lies just outside the centrally located Plaza Mayor. While lovely, it draws a more tourist-based crowd than the Mercado de San Antón which attracts locals who prefer it over a supermarket.


At the Mercado de San Antón, you’ll find a range of foods from Spanish to Japanese and beyond. Of course, plenty vendors also sell products ready to take home. But the market offers another great option: you can send up your favorite meat, cheese, or vegetables to the restaurant on the top floor where they will prepare it to your liking. That’s a meal that is definitely fresh. The restaurant even grows its own herbs, some of which sit right along the table.

Local clothing vendors also rotate throughout the year–a nice way to further diversify the market.


Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid (COAM)
Many visitors will likely made this their first stop. The school that helped make Open House possible was an information point, with maps available for those who had not downloaded Open House Madrid’s mobile app.

Apart from being a central starting point, the COAM campus itself is a beautiful space. Almost 130,000 square feet and spread out over four buildings makes it a favorite for cultural, social and corporate events.


The true focal point the COAM campus is the patio which offers a welcoming atmosphere, an oasis from the concrete world just outside the door. When I visited, children romped in designated play areas, while groups of friends chatted and dined on the small restaurant terrace.

Madrid Garrigues Complex
The Garrigues de Rafael de La-Hoz complex houses the Madrid branch of the Garrigues Law Firm, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Spanish architect Rafael de la Hoz, who also worked on the Madrid Repsol campus and the building at Gran Via 48, renovated the firm in 2006.


The updated building’s front façade uses a technique called Superdual-T, which allows it to appear relatively uniform from the outside, while hiding the crossbeams and creating a clear view from the interior. Some of the glass also includes a solar element to make the best use of available sunlight.

In addition to its large patio, there are outdoor areas in the upper levels to which the tour guides unfortunately did not have access.


Open House events are probably most enjoyed by locals who have passed by these buildings for weeks or years, but have never had a chance to take a moment and really think about the design all around them.  As a soon-to-be madrileña, the tours also proved to be a great welcome into the city I will call home for the next few months.

Photos by Melissa Aguilar.

Please welcome Urban Gardens’s new editorial intern, Melissa Aguilar, who is currently working in Madrid, perfecting her Spanish and exploring the culture.

The freshest innovative and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas for urban gardens and stylish small places.

Visit Robin Horton @UrbanGardens's profile on Pinterest.