Tag Archives: Sevilla

Jardin Americano: Sevilla’s Botanical Gardens

Sevilla is a truly beautiful city, and one of my favorites in Spain. It is full of historic neigborhoods, stunning architecture and monuments, but its many plazas, squares, parks, green spaces, narrow streets, and pedestrian areas make it also  very charming and people friendly.  I was visiting Sevilla off season, but the warmer Mediterranean climate still had roses and bougainvilleas blooming in December. I first visited the Maria Luisa Park, designed by one of my favorite landscape architects Jean Claude Nicholas Forrestier, then the famous Alcazar Palace and its famous gardens.

Maybe I should have visited the Jardines de Guadalquivir and the Jardin Americano (the Botanical Garden next to it) first, because I must say they were a huge let down after seeing such world class gardens.

On the river that goes through Sevilla is an island, named Isla de La Catuja after the cloistered monastery (Cartuja) that is now the Contemporary Arts Center. The island was isolated and undeveloped until the 1992 World Expo, at which time  the monastwery was converted, bridges were added, A huge research and development complex was built, as well as university schools, a stadium, an auditorium, an amusement park, theaters and concert venues, and of course, the gardens.

Jardin Americano, much like it’s neighbor Jardines de Guadalquivir, seemed a bit abandoned and run down, with ponds not looking their best and concrete showing wear (I decide to forego taking photos of those areas). I also noticed gaps in plantings, as if nothing had been replaced in some time.

Even in its hay day, this garden would have had a bit too much concrete for my taste; it does have some nice spots though, such as the large, slatted tropical hothouse right on the Guadalquivir river, that makes one feel a bit like an island cataway, or the nice collection of succulents. In keeping with the theme of the 92 Expo of the 500 year anniversary of Columbus’ voyage,  many of the plants were gifted by countries from the Americas. Others are plants you will see through southern Spain, such as bougainvilleas, oleanders, or jacarandas.

Jarin Americano is right by the bridge leading to the monastery, now the Contemporary Arts Center, and there is no entrance fee.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: Plaza de Espana

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 one one showcases the Plaza de Espana. Although not strictly a garden of course, the Plaza de Espana is not only emblematic of the city of Seville, but also the focal point of the park around which much of the gardens are laid out.

It was designed for the World Fair of 1929 and is now used for central government offices. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance Revival architecture, designed by Aníbal González. It features a series of tiled alcoves representing the provinces of Spain.

 

Plaza de Espana is laid out in a half moon, with the building curving around a monumental plaza with canals and tiled bridges. The square is tiled in the peble style so often found around Andalusian patios and squares.

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