The calles and avenidas of Madrid are decorated with some of the most elegant apartment house entry halls in the world. What a delight to take a stroll just after sunrise when doors are flung open, floors are swept, brass is polished—the city’s portales are made ready to welcome and to bid goodbye in style.
It’s the perfect place to compose oneself, button up a coat, search pockets or purse for a note, or deal with an umbrella (rarely a requirement in Madrid), before facing the porter or the street.
But it doesn’t only serve this practical purpose. This is the first room offered by the building, so it is key to forming a first impression of social standing, one that residents can be proud of. Architectural themes introduced in the facade are developed, and the status of the residence is reinforced through detail, scale, and quality of materials. It should convey dignity without pomposity.
It is typical to find a small staircase, raising the dwelling above the hectic business of the street onto a more serene plane.
There are exceptions, of course!
The best of these apartment houses were built in the 19th and early 20th century, and come in a fairly broad range of manners, from Ibero-Moderne to neo-Renaissance.
The prestigious corner entrance conveys status thanks to its greater visibility on the street, increased natural light, and more ample views.
Here is another. The floor material and wall base are typically stone, for durablity and ease of maintenance. Walls can be stone as well, or plaster. Ceilings can be plaster or wood.
And of course tile is always an option on the Iberian peninsula.
Some of the old portes cochères have been converted for exclusive pedestrian access.
Others still allow the horseless carriage to come through. Note that, though they were sized to allow for vehicles, for the sake of decorum they were detailed like entry halls, not garages.
The best of these entry halls, and there are many model examples in Madrid, provide both a convenience and a charming architectural identity which avoids pretension on the one hand and a false humility on the other.