Caja Madrid Obelisk – Madrid, Spain - Atlas Obscura

Caja Madrid Obelisk

A towering monument in Spain has proven to be more labor-intensive than initially planned. 


A towering obelisk in Madrid, with 462 bronze ribs that spin with hydraulic power, was intended as a gift to the city. But its upkeep has proven to be at least a little burdensome.

Caja Madrid, one of the oldest savings banks in Spain, celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2002. To commemorate the event, it commissioned a piece by one of the most renowned and influential architects in the world.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has designed works across the globe, including the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City, the entirety of Florida Polytechnic University’s 170-acre campus, and several structures throughout Spain. But he’d neglected a work in Madrid, and the city was eager to tout something created by Calatrava.

However, what was intended as a gift to the city and a landmark achievement in contemporary architecture has become a bit of a structural headache. In the past, Calatrava has been criticized for issues with cost and functionality, and this obelisk was no different. The monument, which officially opened in 2009, was originally meant to tower at 400 feet, but the projected weight of the structure, built above a network of underground tunnels, forced him to cut it down to 300 feet.

The bank donated it to the Municipality of Madrid. The towering obelisk has required rather expensive maintenance, coming in at around $180,000 a year. And the hydraulic-powered bronze strips stopped spinning after only a month of rotations.

Know Before You Go

The obelisk is situated in Plaza Castilla easily accessible by tube in Plaza Castilla station (lines 1, 9, and 10) and by bus lines 27, 42, 49, 67, 70, 107, 129, 134, 135, 149, 173, 174, 176, 177, 178, and T62.

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web