Plaza de España and Maria Luisa Park, together form a majestic ensemble of attractions that have earned them UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition.
Seville is a sunny city that sits on both sides of the Guadalquivir River, the “río grande” of Andalusia’s Moorish era. The city’s location on a flat plain has allowed its urban development to extend horizontally instead of vertically, and today wide avenues and broad streets help characterize the unique flavor of Seville’s urban landscape.
Exploring the city’s downtown area, one soon encounters María Luisa Park, one of Seville’s most important green areas. This 34 hectare park was originally part of the Palace of San Telmo, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier who donated the land to the city in 1893. On Abril 18, 1914, the park was opened to the public with the name Parque Urbano Infanta María Luisa Fernanda. Later, Seville hosted the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition and some of the exposition’s most emblematic buildings were erected in the park.
When the park was selected in 1910 as the location of the Ibero-American Exposition, the French landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier (garden keeper of Paris’ famous Bois de Boulogne) was chosen to head the event’s garden works. Forestier transformed the existing palace gardens into a public park, drawing influence from the Alhambra and the Generalife of Granada, Madrid’s Retiro Park, and Seville’s Royal Alcazar, creating a botanical tapestry of trees, grassy gardens, and pathways interconnected by fountains and gazebos. This is a relaxing and refreshing place to visit, particularly during the hot days of Seville’s summers.
The park also features structures designed by Aníbal González, created for the Exposition of 29. The most noticeable monument here is likely the Plaza de España, given its enormous size, striking decoration, and perfectly harmonized design within its surroundings. This semi-elliptic city square (measuring a massive 200 meters at its widest point) is designed to represent the Spanish union and its old territories. The square faces the Guadalquivir River, which symbolizes the road to America.
The large archway that makes up the constructions on the north side of the plaza is highlighted by two towers which for a long time competed with the Giralda as the city’s tallest buildings. These towers are connected by an ensemble of shorter structures which help provide the architectural work a beautiful composition. Opposite the building’s main face sits the great plaza with its central fountain. Encircling the plaza is a 500 meter canal upon which visitors can row rented boats.
There are 48 archways which stand over benches representing the 48 provinces that made up 1929 Spain. Observers can see a map of the province represented at the foot of each bench, and painted tile work on each bench back displays some significant event from the province’s history. When you stroll around the Plaza de España, you can explore the history and geography of Spain within the peaceful and engaging environment of this Spanish landmark.
The plaza is made of brick, and it exhibits polychromatic ceramic tiling, wonderful wood ceiling paneling, and an abundance of carved marble and wrought iron. According to Aníbal González’s project, these elements function together in the designer’s aim to create a “modernized” renaissance work. The grand central plaza is accessed by four bridges which cross the canal and represent the four original kingdoms that made up Spain.
María Luisa Park and the Plaza de España together form a majestic ensemble of attractions that have earned them UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition.
Visitors to this area of Seville can also see a number of other sites hidden within the park gardens, such as the Plaza de America, the beautiful Mudéjar Pavilion (Pabellón Mudéjar), the Museum of Arts and Traditions, and the Museum of Archeology.
It is not surprising that the Plaza de España has been chosen to back drop scenes in several different Hollywood films including Lawrence of Arabia, The Wind and the Lion, and Star Wars Episode II.
The statue of Aníbal González, erected here after the latest restoration work on the ensemble of sites around the year 2010, looks toward his work with a proud smile.