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  • Writer's pictureSonia Cuesta Maniar, PhD

A Brief History of the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona

What is the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc?

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a 20th-century fountain in Barcelona that was designed by Carles Buïgas i Sans to replace Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s Four Columns of Montjuïc that were destroyed in 1928.

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc at night

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc History

In 1929 Barcelona hosted its second International Exhibition, or World’s Fair. A previous one, held in 1888, had led to a significant advance in the city's economic and architectural development. The new exhibition, this time to take place on Montjuïc Hill, led to an upsurge in new urban planning and development in the area. The city council planned a number of eye-catching structures for the event, including the majestic Palau Nacional (or National Palace) at the top of the steps, an outdoor architectural museum, and an amusement park with several mechanical rides. Its organisers envisioned an additional bold and unique feature that would highlight Barcelona's recent technological progress and Catalonia’s cutting-edge electrical industry. The result was the Font Màgica de Montjuïc (or Magic Fountain of Montjuïc).

However, Spain experienced political turmoil in the years before the second Exhibition. In 1923, General Primo de Rivera organised a successful coup d'état. The seven-year dictatorship that ensued slowed down preparations for the event. Furthermore, the new authoritarian government prioritised nationalist politics over regionalism. Monuments celebrating regional diversity were torn down across Spain, including Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s Four Columns of Montjuïc in 1928 (those you see today were erected in 2010, just south of where they originally stood). The monument had once been an icon of Catalan nationalism, symbolising the four stripes of the Senyera, the Catalan flag. With little over a year left before the big event, the city council believed it was essential to fill the gap left in the area next to the National Palace where the columns had once stood.

To address this, architect Carles Buïgas i Sans presented the Executive Committee of the Exhibition with 460 plans and 70 large drawings for the Magic Fountain, which he suggested could be built in the space formerly occupied by the original Four Columns. Buïgas i Sans believed the Fountain had the potential to become a Barcelona landmark. The project was labelled crazy, the design too complex. Nevertheless, with time running out, despite the organisers' scepticism and with less than a year to complete the fountain, the project was given the go-ahead by the city council.

Fuelled by determination and the labour of 3,000 workers, the monument was completed on the 19th of May 1929, the day before the start of the exhibition. It contained 3,620 jets that expelled water to the enormous height of 54 metres. As its architect had anticipated, the Magic Fountain was a sensation and drew in heaving crowds to watch the daily water and light shows.

To the regret of Buïgas i Sans, the Spanish Civil War and subsequent economic crisis caused the fountain to fall into disrepair. He carried out restoration works on it in the 1950s, reinstating part of what had been damaged during both the war and post-war period. The regeneration of Barcelona in 1992 for the Olympic Games saw both fountain and lighting fully restored to their former glory, allowing the monument to feature in the celebrations.

Ever since the fountain was built, it has been an international tourist attraction and one of Barcelona's most iconic monuments. At half-hourly intervals each evening, changing colours and hues illuminate the fountain’s jets during the famous 15-minute music and light shows. It remains an undeniably captivating and thrilling spectacle.

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