The Banco de Espana building in Madrid had Gumbo’s attention when he was taking the puzzle picture, and what caught him was the stark difference in sculptural decoration in the picture—but the building as a whole is worth a look, too.
It is the headquarters of Spain’s central bank, an important player among European central banks, especially in the recent years of economic crisis. It’s also the only place in the world you can still change old Spanish pesetas for Euros (assuming you still had any).
It’s a solid and impressive building—banks have a reason for looking that way—and an impressive location at the center of Madrid, fronting on the Cibeles Fountain and the Paseo del Prado. When a number of formerly rival banks merged in the mid-19th century to pool their power and overcome financial instability, they chose the site, formerly occupied by a nobleman’s palace.
PortMoresby’s guesses caught the essence of the puzzle: a building in transition over time…just not in the right city.
The original 1884 building by the bank’s in-house architects Severiano Sainz and Eduardo de Adaro was extended in 1927 by Yarnoz Larrosa, who exactly copied the styles of the original building on the outside. On the inside, however, he was a man of his times, adding Art Deco touches including a stained glass ceiling over a banking floor with 80-foot ceilings.
The last extension took place in 2003, filling the last piece of land on the block; the architect was Rafael Moneo, and while the exterior mostly matches, the sculptures were almost “sketched in,” as though they were symbols of sculpture, rather than of legendary figures.
Parts of the interior can be visited, including the bank hall and the gorgeous Carrara marble main staircase, but the library is restricted to researchers, and you need an appointment to see the bank’s collection of paintings, which include works by Goya, Sorolla, Mengs and more.
I haven't been in to see the paintings, but while looking at them on-line I found a favorite, who is certainly not one of the great masters...but was clearly a great wit: Pere Borrel del Caso, who called this piece "Escaping Criticism."