1929 Barcelona
Poster featuring a man wearing 16th century
costume with the coats of arms of
Spanish Kingdoms
BIE-classUniversal exposition
CategoryHistorical Expo
NameExposición General d'España (section: Exposición Internacional de Barcelona)
Area118 hectares (290 acres)
Coordinates41°22′14″N 2°09′00″E / 41.37056°N 2.15000°E / 41.37056; 2.15000
Opening20 May 1929 (1929-05-20)
Closure30 January 1930 (1930-01-30)
Universal expositions
PreviousPanama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco
NextCentury of Progress in Chicago
UniversalIbero-American Exposition of 1929 in Sevilla

The 1929 Barcelona International Exposition (also 1929 Barcelona Universal Exposition, or Expo 1929, officially in Spanish: Exposición Internacional de Barcelona 1929 was the second World Fair to be held in Barcelona, the first one being in 1888. It took place from 20 May 1929 to 15 January 1930 in Barcelona, Spain.[1] It was held on Montjuïc, the hill overlooking the harbor, southwest of the city center, and covered an area of 118 hectares (291.58 acres) at an estimated cost of 130 million pesetas ($25,083,921 in United States dollars).[1] Twenty European nations participated in the fair, including Germany, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania and Switzerland. In addition, private organizations from the United States and Japan participated.[1] Hispanic American countries as well as Brazil, Portugal and the United States were represented in the Ibero-American section in Sevilla.

The previous 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition had led to a great advance in the city's economic, architectural and technological growth and development, including the reconstruction of the Parc de la Ciutadella, the city's main public park. A new exposition was proposed to highlight the city's further technological progress and increase awareness abroad of modern Catalan industry. This new exhibition required the urban planning of Montjuïc and its adjacent areas and the renovation of public spaces, principally Plaça d'Espanya.

The exposition called for a great deal of urban development within the city,[2] and became a testing-ground for the new architectural styles developed in the early 20th century. At a local level, this meant the consolidation of Noucentisme, a classical style that replaced the Modernisme (in the same vein as Glasgow Style / Art Nouveau / Jugendstil, etc.) predominating in Catalonia at the turn of the 20th century. Furthermore, it marked the arrival in Spain of international avant-garde tendencies, especially rationalism, as seen in the design of the Barcelona Pavilion, created by German Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.[2] The Exposition also allowed for the erection of several emblematic buildings and structures, including the Palau Nacional de Catalunya,[2] the Font màgica de Montjuïc,[2] the Teatre Grec,[2] Poble Espanyol, and the Estadi Olímpic.[2]


The idea of a new exhibition began to take shape in 1905, promoted by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, as a way of bringing out the new Plan of links designed by Léon Jaussely. It was initially proposed that the Exposition should be constructed in the area of the Besòs River, but instead, in 1913, planners selected Montjuïc as the site. While originally planned for 1917, the exposition was delayed due to World War I.

Puig i Cadafalch's project was supported by the Fomento del Trabajo Nacional, especially Francesc d'Assis, one of its leaders, who took charge of negotiations with the various agencies involved in the project. Thus, in 1913 the organization created a joint committee for organizing the event, consisting of representatives of the National Labor Development and the City Council, be appointed commissioners of the organization Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Francesc Cambo and Joan Pitch i Pon.

In 1915, the committee presented a first draft by Puig i Cadafalch, which was divided into three specific projects, each commissioned to a team of architects. Puig i Cadafalch and Guillem Busquets reserved the area at the base of the mountain, Lluis Domenech i Montaner and Manuel Vega i March planned the area atop the mountain—designated the International Section, and Enric Sagnier and August Font i Carreras Miramar developed a Maritime Section.

Promotional "Cinderella stamp" for the Barcelona International Exposition, 1929

The principal difficulty of the project was the amount of land required. The exposition would need at least 110 hectares, and the Barcelona City Council had only 26 by 1914. Thus, using an 1879 law, they resorted to land-expropriation. In 1917, development work began at Montjuïc, with assistant engineer Marià Rubio i Bellver. Landscaping was done by Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, who was assisted by Maria Rubio i Tudurí Nicolau. Their design was distinctly Mediterranean, with classical influences, combining the gardens with the construction of pergolas and terraces. Likewise, a funicular was built to allow access to the top of the mountain, as well as an aerial tram, which connected the mountain with the Port of Barcelona. However, the aerial tram did not open until 1931, after the fair was closed.

Construction, while somewhat delayed, was completed in 1923, but the introduction that year of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera delayed the actual exposition, which finally occurred in 1929, coinciding with the Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville. Also, the delay made obsolete the goal of promoting electrical industry, so that in 1925 the event was renamed the International Exhibition in Barcelona. The change of objective led to the reorganization of the exhibition, so that it was devoted to three aspects: industry, the sports, and art. In this new period, the organization fell into the hands of Pere Domènech i Roura, the Marquis de Foronda, and Director of Works.

Further development of the event allowed for a great stylistic diversity in the buildings of various architects, some loyal to the Noucentisme prevailing at the time, others reflecting recurring historicist and eclectic trends that persisted since the late 19th century, with particular influence from the Spanish Baroque, in particular the architecture of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. Despite this diversity, most buildings—at least the official ones—had a common theme of monumentality and grandiosity. In contrast, buildings in the International Section, home to pavilions representing other countries and institutions, had a more contemporary aspect, parallel to the current state of the art of the period. This particularly included Art Deco and rationalism.

The exposition was opened by King Alfonso XIII on 19 May 1929. Led by Mayor Darius Rumeu y Freixa, baron de Viver, and Manuel de Álvarez-Cuevas y Olivella, President of the Organizing Committee. It was attended by some 200,000 people in the general public and by many Catalan political, economic, and cultural figures, including the Prime Minister (and dictator) Miguel Primo de Rivera.

In terms of cost, the exhibition lost money, with a deficit of 180 million pesetas. Its success was relative; during the event the stock market crashed in New York, on 29 October 1929, which reduced the number of participants in the event. At the social level, it was great success as it allowed for a large influx of people and achievements for the city of Barcelona, especially in the fields of architecture and urbanism.

The Avenue of the Americas from Plaça d'Espanya

Exposition Center

The Exposition Center, el recinte de l'Exposició, was built to designs by Puig i Cadafalch with two different types of buildings: palaces, the sections devoted to the official competition; and flags, representing countries, institutions and companies. The exposition's main axis began at the Plaça d'Espanya, where four large hotels were built, through the Avenue of Americas (now the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina), which housed the grand buildings of the Exposition, to the foot of the mountain, the site of the "Magic Fountain", the Palaces Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, and a monumental staircase.

The Avenue of the Americas was decorated with numerous fountains, as well as glass columns—illuminated by electricity—designed by Charles Buïgas, which caused a great sensation. On both sides of the avenue were the main buildings of the Exposition: Palace of Costumes; the Palace of Communications and Transport; and the Palace of Metallurgy, Electricity and Locomotion. Today, these buildings are used as exposition spaces in the Barcelona Trade Fair. Along the avenue was Mechanics Square (now the Plaça de l'Univers), at the center of which stood the "Tower of Light", and the sculpture El Treball, by Josep Llimona.

Plaça d'Espanya

The Plaça d'Espanya was included in Ildefons Cerdà's plan for the expansion of Barcelona, the Eixample. It was to be a major point of communication in the route between Barcelona and the towns of Baix Llobregat. After a first draft by the urbanized square Josep Amargós in 1915, the square was finally built to plans by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Guillem Busquets, and then finished by Antoni Darder i Marsa. It was fully complete by 1926. They designed the square as a monumental rotary, to be surrounded by a Baroque colonnade. The design was influenced by Bernini's St. Peter's Square in Rome. Dividing the square from the Avenue of the Americas Ramon Reventós designed two bell[citation needed]-towers, known as the Venetian Towers, which were heavily influenced by St. Mark's Campanile in Venice.

At the center of the square another monumental fountain was built, designed by Josep Maria Jujol. Its ornate decoration is an allegory of Spain, surrounded by water. Three niches with sculptures symbolize the three principal rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, the Ebro, Guadalquivir, and Tagus. Around the central sculpture, three decorated columns symbolize Religion (a cross with Ramon Llull, Saint Teresa of Jesus, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola), Heroism (a sword with Pelagius of Asturias, James I and Isabella), and Arts ( a book with Ausias March and Miguel de Cervantes).

The Magic Fountain

The Magic Fountain in 2014

The famous Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, designed by Carles Buïgas, was constructed in 1929 on Avinguda Maria Cristina at the foot of Montjuic,[3] and amazed the public with its light and water displays. Today, it is still an emblem of the Catalan capital, and musical lightshows are often performed there during the annual festival of La Mercè, as well as during every weekend. It enchants the public with a backdrop of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Originally, four columns were built in this location by Puig i Cadafalch to represent the Catalan flag, but these were removed by Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera's orders.

Official Sections

International Section

Participating countries
 Austria  Belgium  Czechoslovakia  Denmark
 Finland  France Germany  Hungary
Italy  Japan  Netherlands  Norway
 Portugal  Romania Spain  Sweden
 Switzerland  United Kingdom United States Yugoslavia

As the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 was taking place simultaneously in Seville, no Spanish American countries participated. From the remaining countries, the official participants were Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (later Yugoslavia); most of these countries had their own pavilions, except for Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Switzerland. Apart from these countries, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States participated in an unofficial capacity. Each country had a week dedicated to it throughout the course of the event, with a highlight of the German week being the flight of the Graf Zeppelin airship over Barcelona, on 16 May 1929.

A 1986 reconstruction of the German Pavilion.

Private pavilions

Pavilion of the Barcelona Bank Savings and Pensions.
Pavilion of the Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas.

Other buildings

Teatre Grec

Teatre Grec.

The landscaping of Montjuic mountain left works like the Teatre Grec, an open-air theatre inspired by ancient Greek theatres (particularly the Epidaurus), designed by Ramon Reventós. Located in the site of an old quarry, it has a 460 m2 semicircular area, with a diameter of 70 m and a 2,000 person capacity.[19] It is currently the site of a summer festival in Barcelona, the Festival Grec.

The theatre is situated within Laribal Gardens, designed by Forestier and Rubió, where the famous "Cat Fountain" is located at the entrance to a building by Puig i Cadafalch which has been convertred into a restaurant (1925). There are many sculptures in the gardens, with works by Josep Viladomat, Enric Casanovas, Josep Clarà, Pablo Gargallo, Antoni Alsina, Joan Rebull, Josep Dunyach, etc. In the Miramar zone the Montjuic swimming pool was built, as well as a restaurant which in 1959 became the first RTVE studio in Barcelona.[20]

Estadi Olímpic

Olympic Stadium.

At the top of the hill, next to the International Section, the Olympic Stadium was built by Pere Domènech i Roura within the sports section. It had a surface area of 66,075 m2 and a 62,000 person capacity, making it the second biggest stadium in Europe at the time, after Wembley. It contained fields for the practice of football and other sports, as well as athletics tracks and installations for various other sports such as boxing, gymnastics and fencing, as well as tennis courts and a swimming pool. The main façade was monumental in atmosphere, with a dome and a tall tower topped with a shrine. It was decorated with sculptures, most notably the "Horse riders making the Olympic salute", two bronze equestrian sculptures by Pablo Gargallo. The building was remodelled by the architects Vittorio Gregotti, Frederic de Correa, Alfons Milà, Joan Margarit and Carles Buxadé for the 1992 Summer Olympics.[21]

Poble Espanyol

Entrance to the Poble Espanyol, with a reproduction of the walls of Ávila.

One work which had great public success was the Poble Espanyol ("Spanish Town"), a small showground containing reproductions of different urban and architectural environments from the entire national territory, in an atmosphere which ranges from the folkloric to the strictly archaeological. It was designed by the architects Ramon Reventós and Francesc Folguera, with the artistic advice of Miquel Utrillo and Xavier Nogués. The exhibition is divided into six regional areas: Castile and Extremadura, Basque Country and Navarre, Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, Aragon and Galicia, around a Grand Plaza and surrounded by walls (a replica of the walls of Ávila). With a surface area of 20,000 m2, it contains 600 buildings, of which 200 can be visited. Among the monuments reproduced some of the most notable are the Mudéjar belltower of Utebo (Zaragoza), the palaces of the marquis of Peñaflor (Seville) and of Ovando Solís (Cáceres), the cloister of Sant Benet de Bages and the Roman belltower of Taradell.[22]


Palau Reial de Pedralbes.

Just as in 1888, the 1929 Exhibition had a great impact on the city of Barcelona at an urban level, not only in Montjuic district, since improvement and refurbishment works were carried out throughout the city: Tetuán, Urquinaona and Letamendi squares were landscaped; the Marina bridge was built; the Plaça de Catalunya was urbanised; and the Avinguda Diagonal was extended to the west and the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes to the southwest. Various public works were also carried out: street paving and sewer systems were improved, public bathrooms were installed and gas lighting was replaced with electricity. The tradition of ongoing fairs, the Fira de Barcelona, was established.

At the same time, several buildings were remodelled, such as the City Hall, where Josep Maria Sert painted the Salón de Crónicas, and the Generalitat, where the flamboyant bridge over Bisbe street was built. The post office and the Estació de França (France Station) were completed after having spent several years under construction. The Palau Reial de Pedralbes was also built as a residence for the royal family, designed by Eusebi Bona and Francesc Nebot. During this period the first skyscraper in Barcelona was also constructed: the Telefónica building on the corner of Fontanella and Portal del Ángel, designed by Francesc Nebot.

Finally, they improved the city's communications, with construction during the 1920s of the Barcelona El Prat Airport, the removal of level crossings within the city, the improvement of links with the city's peripheral neighbourhoods, the Sarrià train being moved underground (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya), the electrification of public trams and the extension of metro line 3 to Sants, connecting the Plaza de España with the Exhibition district. The construction of all these public works lead to a great demand for workers, causing a large increase in immigration to the city from all parts of Spain. At the same time, the increase in population lead to the construction of various workers' districts with "cheap housing", such as the Aunós Group in Montjuic and the Milans del Bosch and Baró de Viver Groups in Besós.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Barcelone 1929" (PDF) (in French). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Francesc-Xavier Mingorance i Ricart. "La Exposición Internacional de Barcelona de 1929" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  3. ^ "Visiting Barcelona on a Budget". secrethotels.eu. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  4. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 110–112.
  5. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 120–122.
  6. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 112–115.
  7. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 132–135.
  8. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 135–143.
  9. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 149–152.
  10. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 154–155.
  11. ^ a b Josep Maria Huertas. "Cronología de Montjuïc". Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  12. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 125–131.
  13. ^ The bibliography consulted does not state the first name of this architect, but it could well be Arthur Verhelle, who also created the Belgian Pavilion of the 1922 Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro. "Rue Blanche 33". Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  14. ^ Buenaventura Bassegoda. "Pabellones extranjeros en la Exposición". Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  15. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, p. 185.
  16. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 115–116.
  17. ^ Ángel Urrutia, Arquitectura española del siglo XX, p. 194.
  18. ^ Josep L. Roig, Historia de Barcelona, p. 202.
  19. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 156–157.
  20. ^ Josep L. Roig, Historia de Barcelona, p. 198.
  21. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, pp. 175–179.
  22. ^ Josep L. Roig, Historia de Barcelona, p. 195.
  23. ^ M. Carmen Grandas, L'Exposició Internacional de Barcelona de 1929, p. 48-54.