Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain (1832-1897) was the younger sister of Isabella II, queen of Spain. She married Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, youngest son of the French King Louis Philippe, and became Duchess of Montpensier.
Most of the grounds that form Maria Luisa Park today where originally part of the Palace of San Telmo and donated by Maria Luisa to the city in 1893 to be used as public gardens. The palace , a magnificent example of Spanish baroque architecture was rehabilitated and converted in the 1990s into the seat of the autonomous government of Andalusia. It stands today just outside Maria Luisa Park.
French urban planner and landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, who also created the Bagatelle Rose Garden and the Laribal Gardens in Barcelona, started work on the park in 1911. Also in preparation of the 1929 World’s Fair, architect Anibal Gonzales began work on the Plaza de Espana building and some of the pavilions.
Under Forestier, who had been heavily influenced by the gardens of Andalusia and Morocco, the Park became a Moorish inspired extravaganza of tiled fountains, ponds, arbors, pavillions and other structures, planted in a lush Mediterranean style with vines, bougainvilleas, roses, palms orange trees and flower beds.
I discovered Forestier’s work when in Barcelona, visiting the stunning terraced Laribal Gardens on the hill of Montjuic. These gardens lead from fountains to gazebos to arbors to rose gardens to the top of the hill where you discover the sweeping views down the hill with water stairs inspired by the Alhambra leading back down. This element of surprise and wonder is one I have found in all of Forestier’s gardens, whether in Paris at Bagatelle, Morocco at the Jardins d’Essais or here.
This park being such an expansive and complex creation, I am featuring it through several posts.This first one showcases the northern section of the park. The Glorieta de las Conchas (8) features statues and planted borders arranged around a central fountain. Glorieta de Dona Sol (9) has a beautiful mosaic surrounded by hedges, and Glorieta de Ofelia Nieto (10_ is a meandering arbor covered in trumpet vines and bougainvilleas. At the end of the avenue is the Museum of Archeology (30), also built for the 1929 Exhibition.
Leading towards the Fountain of the Lions is Gurugu Mountain (15 on the map), a small mad made “mount” with an observation point and gazebo up top. This is a perfect example of Forestier’s playfulness in garden design, interjecting surprises at every turn throughout his gardens.