These gardens are one of the treasures of the Park of Montjuïc and taking a stroll around them is a real pleasure. The rich plant life, together with the water that flows delicately through the wide handrails; the tiled benches and the small squares all create exceptionally beautiful gardens. It is a place to be, to gaze at and to discover the thousands of details that shape a harmony that is difficult to surpass.
The historically-important Laribal Gardens are sculpted by terraces, pathways, small squares, ponds and lush, established plant life. A series of terraces are linked by paths and steeply sloped shortcuts, with stretches of differently designed stairways interspersed. The flattest areas are afforded shade by exposed brick, stone and white pillar pergolas. The mostly exotic plant life has a rich and varied range of species.
These gardens, which were included in the International Exposition of Barcelona (a World's Fair) in 1929, were greatly reputed. The garden's designers, Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier and Nicolau M. Rubió Tudurí, created a new style of Mediterranean landscaping.
The pre-existing plant life, from native plants to fruit trees from the mountain's agricultural past, was integrated into the gardens with an original and innovative gardening concept that is openly inspired by the ancient Arabian gardens and from the "Carmenes" in Granada with prominent ceramic tiles, ornamental water features and flowering plants in pots on railings and parapets.
The Stairway of the Generalife Gardens
Water is the essence of this garden, with its large and small ponds. In order to connect the upper area of the park with the Amargós Gardens, now the Teatre Grec Gardens, Forestier designed a stairway inspired by the one in the Generalife Gardens, with waterfalls on the banisters, small ponds with fountains on the landings and benches for relaxing and enjoying the freshness and sound of the water.
The Gardens of the Font del Gat
Viewpoint pergolas link the gardens with ramps, stairs and waterfalls that flow into the Font del Gat ("Fountain of the Cat"), a point at which magnificent views of Barcelona can be enjoyed.
The gardens lie on the slope from the highest point of the Laribal Gardens down to the Passeig de Santa Madrona and include the popular Font del Gat and a nineteenth-century building. There are paths, terraces and corners that adapt to the terrain with stairways, ramps and a monumental waterfall with four sections separated by paths and canals that connect the different areas.
Everything is covered in a thick, Mediterranean foliage, fruit trees such as loquat and fig and enormous palm trees. From the Passeig de Santa Madrona below, some very tall cypresses by the waterfall accentuate its height.
The Rose Gardens of the Colla de l'Arròs
A circle of cypress trees with a small fountain in the centre marks the beginning of a path that, beneath a pergola with terracotta pillars, leads to an oval patio surrounded by cypresses. These are the Rose Gardens of the Colla de l'Arròs.
These gardens are arranged on different levels with the feeling of being on a patio, bordered by rows of cypresses and privets. In various rectangular parterres, many diverse old varieties of roses have been planted. At the centre is a square pool with ceramic tiles, dominated by the marble female nude sculpture "Estival", who looks over the rose garden and beyond to Barcelona.
Plaça del Claustre
From the Sant Miquel Garden, next to the Passeig de Santa Madrona, there are three large London Plane trees that existed before Forestier designed the gardens. At the end, the walls of what was once an old quarry gives this part of the Laribal Gardens a confined and cloister-like air. This is where it gets its name. On the right there is a path that connects the gardens with the Teatre Grec Gardens. This connection is solved by way of a passageway that comes from the plaça del claustre, which is cloister-like and confined thanks to the fact that the Teatre Grec (amphitheatre) is backed by the walls of a one-time quarry and here we can find plane trees (Platanus x hispanica) that were already there when the gardens were built.
The mature and Mediterranean plant life gives the gardens meaning. Among other species there are Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis), Umbrella Pines (Pinus pinea), Bay Laurels (Laurus nobilis), Bitter Orange trees (Citrus aurantium) and Mediterranean Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) being examples of native vegetation, but we also find Australian pine (Casuarina cunninghamiana), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Lambert cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara).
The Generalife stairs are surrounded by large Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) and shrubs such as the Chinese Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and the Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira), a species in abundance in the gardens along with the Oleander (Nerium oleander) and the Japanese Spindle tree (Euonymus japonicus).
The elegant leaves of an Aspidistra elatior shine in terracotta pots and Garden Geraniums (Pelargonium sp.), Chinese Wisterias (Wisteria sinensis) and Lady Banks' Roses (Rosa banksiae) cover the pergolas. In different areas around the gardens aromatic plants like Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Rosemary (Rosmarinus offcinalis) and climbing plants such as Ivy (Hedera helix) can be found.
In the Laribal Gardens there are also River Oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana), Tasmanian Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globules), Monterey Cypresses (Cupressus macrocarpa) Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) and in Plaça del Claustre, three large London Planes (Platanus X hispanica).
Art and Architecture
The sculptures are notable in these gardens, both for their quality and their beauty. There is an Art Deco style marble female nude, " Estival" (1929) by Jaume Otero, that dominates the rose garden.
The " La Noia de la trena" (1928) by Joseph Viladomar is another female nude, in this case made of bronze, which represents a young girl plaiting her hair. It is in a small shaded square, close to the stairway that links to other areas of the gardens.
The third sculpture is again of a woman and by Joseph Viladomar and was based on the Manolo Hugué original. "Repòs" (1925) a life-sized female nude made of stone situated in a small square close to the entrance next to the Joan Miró Foundation.
Near the rose garden, there is a glazed ceramic fountain influenced by the sea, crowned by a jet, which was the work of Llorenç Artigas.
The Font del Gat
The water from the Font del Gat ("Fountain of the Cat") pours from a feline head, sculpted by Joan Antoni Homs in 1918, when the Laribal Gardens were being finished. This fountain is one of many that flowed in Barcelona at the time and is situated in a place in the city that was very popular at the end of the nineteenth century.
The fountain was so popular that the journalist and playwright Joan Amich wrote a song about it: "La Marieta de l'ull viu" that is still sung today and includes the verse: "Baixant de la font del Gat, / una noia, una noia, / baixant de la font del Gat / una noia amb un soldat..." ("Coming down from the cat Fountain / a girl, a girl / Coming down from the cat Fountain / a girl with a soldier...").
The area where the Laribal Gardens now lie was a popular meeting place at the beginning of the last century, in particular the Font del Gat, which was also an area for exclusive gatherings, such as those of Colla de l'Arròs, a gastronomic-political group who had a certain influence over Barcelona at the turn of the last century, would meet in a small building situated where the Museu Etnològic (Ethnological Museum) now stands.
The upper part of the current gardens once belonged to Joseph Laribal, an esteemed lawyer whose name the gardens bear. He built a neo-Arabian chalet, surrounded by eclectic gardens, with large trees.
After Laribal died in 1908, the house was acquired by the Town Council, which established the Escola del Bosc, which still exists to this day. Simultaneously, studies began for the development and gardening of the mountain, a comprehensive project that was initially the responsibility of Josep Amargós.
The 1929 World's Fair
Completed in 1922, the Laribal Gardens are linked to a later event: the International Exposition of Barcelona of 1929 (a World's Fair). This event represented the culmination of a project which began in 1905 to organise an exhibition on Montjuïc about the electrical industries, the emerging energy at the time.
One of the commissioners at the International Exhibition of Barcelona was Francesc Cambó, who was responsible for the gardening and engineering work and the work of the French landscape architect Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier. His assistant was the young architect Nicolau M. Rubió I Tudurí, who, in 1917, became the director of the Public and Wooded Parks Board, the predecessor of the Parks and Gardens Service of Barcelona, of which he was mainly responsible and one of the key people in the development of green spaces in the city.
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