Corralas encapsulate the soul of Spanish urban living, which boomed when Madrid was declared capital of Spain in 1606. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of economic migrants flocked to the city in search of work, and to host this workforce, a huge stock of cheap housing was quickly erected. Over 400 years later, around 500 of these buildings are still standing strong and are now seen as some of the chicest places to live.
Corralas are outdoor corridors whereby the main access to interior apartments is gained. Each apartment is very small at around 30 m² and has just one bedroom. Until the last century, each floor of the building had only one toilet which was plonked at the end of each corridor for all neighbours to share. Walls were also thin and neighbours had little privacy, but this wasn’t a problem as just like any working class district during tough times, people pulled together and were a corrala community.
As well as being beautiful, corralas are highly desirable places to live because of their natural climate control. During summer months the interior patio is naturally cooler, and during the winter months it’s also less exposed to winds and so remains relatively warmer than its exterior neighbours.
Many of these architectural antiques are now listed buildings and can mostly be found in Madrid’s traditional working class districts such as Lavapies, La Latina and Masalaña. Here are some of my favourite ones…
C/ RIBERA DE CURTIDORES
A collection of four different corralas can be seen here but access to the public is only on Sundays during the Rastro when an antique store inside the courtyard is open.
C/ MIGUEL SERVET
This corrala can be seen from the street as part of the building was demolished, exposing the interior.
C/ MESÓN DE PARADES
This corrala looks over a square where amateur theatre performances are sometimes held. The corrala‘s corridors are then transformed into rows of seats to see the show.
The square in front used to host a a regular farmers’ market, and as you can see from the old photo below, not much has changed at all in at least the last hundred years.
LA LATINA’S OLD TOWN
Like above, this corrala has been recently exposed due to the demolition of a neighbouring building which is now a carpark.
Now an historical museum, access to this beautifully preserved corrala is only during opening hours.