As one enters these gardens, they give the impression that they are the gardens of a king. This is true, as these gardens were created for a king at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The elegant Joan Maragall gardens are made up of wooded avenues, wide lawns, parterres de broderie, ornamental fountains, numerous outdoor sculptures and a small palace that was once and still remains a residence of the royal family.
The Joan Maragall gardens are full of serenity; they are a different world where the only thing that can be heard is the singing of the birds and the sound of the water as it bubbles out of the ornamental fountains. If you enter the gardens through the entrance on the Avinguda del Estadio, the first thing that you come across are tall trees and large stretches of lawn. As you walk on down into the heart of the gardens, the slight slope is occasionally broken up by stone-lined tiers that help you in your descent. The Palacete Albéniz.
The royal grounds
This is the most appropriate description for this open, grassy area that extends in front of the small palace, flanked by two wide staircases that descend from the patio, leading you towards the front door of the building. A series of ponds with fountains and waterfalls share the leading role with the long parterre de broderie.
Two rows of perfectly pruned lime trees line these classic French gardens, emphasising the delicateness of the small bushes that border the beds brimming with flowers. Upon the immense spread of lawn that marks the very end of the garden, there is a structure that shelters the sculpture of Susanna al bany (Susana in the bath). This statue is visible from the small palace.
Areas with personality
Throughout the whole garden there are wide sand pathways that lead you to the different areas of the park, each one with distinct characteristics. The true beauty of the majority of these areas is accented by the sculptures.
In the area of the Palau Nacional, at the main entrance to the gardens there is a wide avenue of magnolias and a large pond with fountains in the centre. This avenue leads us up to the bottom of the hill that is next to the small palace. At the top of this hill, there is a semicircular square surrounded by cypresses and presided over by the sculpture Serena that is seen as the lobby to the small amphitheatre.
On the either side of the small palace there are tiny, quiet squares, with fountains and basins decorated with dolphins and cherubs. Behind the building, enormous pine trees provide shade to a large grassy area. Below these pine trees there are tables and chairs that invite the visitor to stop and have a little break.
There is a flight of stairs at the end of the lawn that leads us down to the Avinguda de Santa Madrona. This avenue connects these gardens to those of Laribal, the latter being another precious asset to the Montjuïc Mountain. Just before walking down these steps an exceptional view of Barcelona bids us farewell.
Apart from the great variety of species and trees that are planted in the Joan Maragall gardens, it is a good example of typical early-twentieth century gardens, a green space with very large trees.
The magnificent avenues are flanked by Silver Lime trees (Tilia tomentosa) and Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora). There are also numerous conifers, such as different cedar trees, (Cedrus deodara, Cedrus libani ssp), Roman pine trees (Pinus pinea), White Pine trees (Pinus halepensis), tall Black Pines (Pinus nigra, Austrian subsp.), Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens, Cupressus glabra), and a few Monterey cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa).
There are also typical Mediterranean species, such as Olive trees (Olea europaea) and Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex), beside other species that are not as well-known, such as Cycas revoluta, Trachycarpus fortunei and Rhapis excelsa. There is also a Jujube (Red Date) tree (Zizipus jujuba) planted in one of the small squares. This tree is featured in the Barcelona local trees of interest catalogue. Other species of trees in the garden are different varieties of Poplar trees (Populus alba, Populus alba 'Pyramidalis', Populus simonii and Populus X canadensis), Bitter Orange trees (Citrus aurantium), Elm trees (Ulmus minor) and Pepper trees (Schinus molle).
Art and Architecture
The neo-classical royal pavilion, known as the Palacete Albéniz, that is located in the gardens was built in 1929 by local architect Joan Moya. This building was built behind the Palau Nacional (National Palace), and was later refurbished in 1970.
Apart from this building, the Joan Maragall gardens also have 32 sculptures, all from different periods and each one sculpted by a different artist, some of them of very high quality. The sculptures that really stand out amongst the rest are the Noia ajaguda (Girl Lying Down) (1950), by Joan Rebull; Nu a l'estany (Naked in the pond) (1970), by Antoni Casamor; Cérvols (Stags) (1967), by Frederic Marès; L'aiguadora (The water carrier) (1862), by Louis Sauregeau; Dos tritons (Two newts) (1929), by Josep Viladomat; Sussana al bany (Susana in the bath), by Theophile Eugène; Al·legoria de la sardana (Allegory of the sardana) (1965), by Ernest Maragall; two female nudes, facing each other, called Dona a la cascada (Woman in the waterfall) (1970) and the group of Dones a la cascada (Women in the waterfall) (1970), and Nu femení (Female nude) (1965), by Eulàlia Fàbregas de Sentmenat; Serena (1970), by Pilar Francesch; Noia amb casquet de bany (Girl in a swim cap) (1970), by Marifé Tey; Dona ajaguda (Woman lying down) (1970), by Enric Monjo, and Dona amb nena (Woman with a girl) and Dona amb nen (Woman with a boy) (1970), by Luisa Granero.
This green space originates from the gardens that Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier designed to circulate the Royal Pavilion. This building was built in 1929 inside the enclosure of the International Exhibition (a World's Fair) on Montjuïc. The building was built with two main objectives: to provide Alfonso XIII a space for his large banquets, and to provide a place for him to rest during his visits to the Exhibition.
Once the Exhibition had finished, the idea was to locate the Barcelona Museu de la Música (Museum of Music) there, but this never happened, although the idea determined the name of the small palace and for many years the name of the surrounding gardens. The small palace was named Albéniz, in honour of the great musical artist Isaac Albéniz.
In 1970 when the gardens were expanded, the name was changed to Joan Maragall. The expansion of these gardens was carried out by Joaquim M. Casamor and Barcelona's parks and gardens service. This garden was dedicated to the famous poets of the decade and is one of the three gardens on Montjuïc, along with the Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer garden and the Mossèn Costa i Llobera garden.
Nowadays, the Palacete Albéniz is used as the local residence for the royal family when they come to Barcelona on official visits, for other important guests of the city, and as the location for important municipal banquets and meetings. It is for this reason that the gardens are closed to the public on many occasions.
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