Who would say at first glance that Plaza de España was designed and constructed when avant-garde movements where already taking place in Europe? We all know that Seville is a very traditional city, and this perception did not change despite an event such as the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 which took place in the city. Regionalism was the dominating style in Seville of those years, and this building complex became the quintessential representation of this movement at local level as well as the most important piece of the Exhibition.
Located between regionalist architecture and neocolonialist pavilions this building complex is coetaneous to the famous Barcelona Pavilion of Mies van der Rohe, the German pavilion for the Expo 1929 in Barcelona.
Aníbal González was the father of Sevillian Regionalism, and the architect who designed Plaza de España. This movement represented a look into the past, a search for own references with which to recover a lost glory. Mudejar, plateresque, baroque, among others, were his main influences; in his own words:
“There are in our city endless sources of inspiration in art works inherited from previous generations which represent a continual teaching”
Aníbal’s words are a vivid illustration of the tension between a search for a regional identity and the avoidance of everything representing a threat to tradition. But in a way, this is what makes Seville authentic, a city not led by architectural trends but by its own guidelines.
Plaza de España was his masterpiece, where he could bring all these styles together and combine them within the framework of the prevailing constructive system of those days, in which brickwork was imposed as the material par excellence. Located inside Parque de Maria Luisa, the building complex has its roots in the Roman stadium, and was conceived to be a versatile place in which a wide range of popular meetings could be held. The fountain, located in the middle of the square, wasn’t designed by Aníbal and drew considerably criticism both for breaking the space and its categorical emptiness.
Regarding formal aspects, the space has a semicircular shape, and is surrounded by a central building as well as two curve wings embracing the area. The latter wings end up in two towers, called north and south, and were subject of numerous controversies, due to its height which could eclipse the symbol of the city, La Giralda. A semicircular canal runs parallel to the buildings is settled, and grew into a key tourist attraction for the area, with visitors being able to sail on small boats similar to Venetian gondolas.
The canal is intersected by 4 bridges, each representing the former 4 kingdoms of Spain: Castilla, Leon, Aragon and Navarra. A series of benches made of ceramics dedicated to Spanish provinces adorns the walls of the square. It is very common to see visitors searching for their home province represented on these benches.
Plan your visit early in the morning, when the square is still not overcrowded and the space can be perceived without interferences. Access Parque de Maria Luisa from Glorieta de los Marineros and then walk inside the park through Avenida Rodriguez de Casso, you will soon discover Plaza de España at the end of the road. Both its architectural achievements and unquestioned charm have converted it into one of the most important symbols of Seville.