Perched on an upwards slope and only visible from the western quarter of the city, Madrid's new Museum of Royal Collections lies nestled between the city’s Royal Palace and the grand Almudena Cathedral.

At first glance, the 46,000 sq m museum, designed by Spanish firm Mansilla+Tuñón (at the time headed by Emilio Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla, who passed away in 2012), appears to act as the Royal Palace’s plinth. Its long pillars, made from granite, stretch up from below, visually cradling the neighbouring building.

Working with such a significant historical setting, it was important for the architects to develop a suitably context-sensitive approach. So, they drew inspiration from the closely situated palace, sourcing a palette of materials that would work in harmony with – and complement – the museum’s surroundings. The white concrete references the light-coloured limestone situated in the palace windows, while the museum’s external joinery and white wood shutters pay homage to the Royal Palace’s exterior fixtures.

The architects devised the layout with the ambition to create a dynamic contrast between the architecture and the museum’s historic exhibits. With this in mind, Mansilla+Tuñón opted for three exhibition levels, each assigned to a different collection; the first level houses tapestries; the second displays paintings, sculptures and other miscellaneous items; and the third floor exclusively focuses on carriages.

The museum’s interior program is organised in a linear way. When descending from the entrance, visitors are greeted by a ramp, which leads them to the galleries beyond. Each of these generous spaces measures 120m in length, 16m in width and span a breathtaking 8m high.

Currently in its tenth year of construction, the museum’s new home is almost finished, although the grant opening is not planned for a while still. The museum is scheduled to only open its doors to the public in 2018 – when the exhibition design reaches completion.