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Maria Luisa Park in Seville and the 1929 Exhibition

ºMaria Luisa Park, a short way outside and to the south of the historic centre, is Seville's primary green space, and a popular place with locals and visitors looking for somewhere to relax, walk and enjoy the fresh air (it's also popular as a place for running or jogging). The adjacent Jardines de Delicias (Garden of Delights), effectively an extension of the Maria Luisa, occupies a triangular space between the park proper and the River Guadalquivir.

The Creation of the Park

 
The Lion Garden
 
Until 1893, when it was donated to the city by the Infanta Luisa Fernanda, Duchess of Montpelier (the name of the park is an amalgam of her name and that of her daughter Maria, who had been the wife of Alfonso XII) the park had been part of the grounds of the San Telmo Palace (the former College of Navigators next to the Alfonso XIII hotel). In 1910 the area was chosen as the main site for the Spanish-American Exhibition that was finally held there in 1929 and 1930, and this led to the development of the Maria Luisa as we know it today.
 
Ornamental lion water spout

The Gardens 

The project was put in the hands of Aníbal González, who also designed many of the buildings within the park, but the gardens themselves were designed by the world famous landscape gardener Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier as a "Moorish style paradise" of pavilions, tiled fountains, ponds and secluded arbors. The park is laid out around a framework of broad avenues, including the Avenue Rodriguez Caso (the artillery commander who first had the idea for the exhibition) which leads from the Juan Sebastian Elcano monument to the Spanish pavilion, the Plaza España, interspersed with both formal and informal gardens.
 
As well as profuse plantings of vines, palm trees, Mediterranean pine and orange trees, the Park serves as a botanical garden with many exotic species, and many species of birds including doves, green parrots, and ducks and swans can also be seen. For the student of natural history there are educational plaques with information about the different species scattered around the park.
 
 
 Ceramic tiles

Plaza España

The park's most famous building, and one of Seville's most important sights, is the Plaza España, designed by Aníbal González, which was the Spanish pavilion for the 1929 exhibition. This impressive colonnaded semi-circular building with towers at either end is a harmonious combination of the regionalist style of the time with Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The curved wings symbolise the embrace of the former colonies by the Spanish motherland. A boating lake with tiled bridges and a central plaza with an exuberant fountain complete the ensemble, and from the main entrance a statue of González contemplates the master's handiwork.
 
González's view of the Plaza España

Plaza America and the Museums

At the south end of the park is another cluster of pavilions around the Plaza America, a rectangular garden with a central raised pool. At one end of the Plaza is the Royal Pavilion (now municipal offices), at the other the Glorieta of the Doves, because of the flocks of these birds that gather there to be fed. To either side are the Mudejar Pavilion (now the Museum of Popular Art and Traditions) and the Fine Arts Pavilion, which now houses the Archaeological Museum. Both are well worth a visit.
 
The Mudejar Pavilion

Duck Ponds and Fountains 

In almost the exact centre of the park is the celebrated duckpond, complete with an island accessible by little wooden bridges, and platforms for the ducks. On the island is a small “summer house” the pavilion of Alfonso XII, built when the park was still part of the palace grounds. 
 
From the duckpond walk alongside the narrow pool with the fountains to the circular Fountain of the Frogs, and on to the Fountain of the Lions, an octagonal pool with four stone lions holding shields, which is the centrepiece of the formal gardens and one of those great places for just sitting and contemplating the beauty of the scene, and the combination of nature and artifice. Behind the Fountain of the Lions is Monte Gurugú, a small artificial hill with a gazebo and an artificial spring at the summit that feeds a mountain stream that cascades down a rock strewn course to the bottom. Beneath the hill is a short tunnel that serves no obvious purpose, but which in fact was for the miniature trains that carried people around the 1929 exhibition.
 
 The Cataract 

Memorials and Pavilions

As you wander through the gardens you will find yourself from time to time in one of the secluded arbors, or glorietas, that are scattered around the park. Some have names that are in some way descriptive, such as the glorieta of the clock, or the glorieta of the lotus. Others commemorate famous people -  Cervantes, Goya and the Machado Brothers are among those represented, but the highlight is the Glorieta de Becquer, with its statues of figures representing one of his collections of poems grouped around the base of a tree.
 
 Glorieta de Becquer
 
Around the edges of the park, but particularly along the Paseo de las Delicias and in the area between the park and the San Telmo Palace, you can still see the pavilions of the various American countries that took part in the exhibition. Most of them are now used for other purposes, though a couple are still used as the consulates of the countries that built them, and several are now educational establishments, including a famous dance school. My personal favourite is the Pavilion of Peru, which is now a little science museum, and I also have a soft spot for the former Telefonica Pavilion which is now a gardening school (sadly under threat of closure).

The Queen's Sewing Box

Just outside the park proper, near the end of the Los Remedios bridge, is a little three sided, turreted building decorated with horizontal stripes, a bit like a wedding cake. This is the earliest example of Neomudejar architecture in Seville, and was built in 1893 at the end of the San Telmo Palace gardens, after the land beyond had been given to the city.  It is known as the Queen's Sewing Box, because of a popular local story that the ailing Queen Maria spent her time here sewing, although in fact it wasn't built until after her death.
 
 The Queen's Sewing Box  

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