Ajuntament de Barcelona

Forestier's stairs

Hortes de Sant Bertran and Forestier's stairs

    Forestier's stairs

    The landscaping of Montjuïc is on account of, to a large extent, the French engineer and landscaper Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier (1861 – 1930), one of the best international landscapers of his time, who introduced the concept of Mediterranean gardens in Barcelona. On the occasion of the Electric Industries Exposition of 1917, which finally was the International Exposition of 1929, J.C.N. Forestier was hired by Francesc Cambó, commissioner of the planned exposition, to landscape and set up part of the hill.

    Forestier conceived the stairs, at the end of Passatge de les Bateries and still unfinished, as an access to the planned maritime section and connexion element with other parts of that exposition. As the terrain was very rough, he organized the development of Miramar area into terraces connected by stairs, making a majestic and impressive staircase. But the works stopped when the maritime section of the exposition was dismissed.


    J.C.N. Forestier was hired by Barcelona City Council to plan and execute the landscaping of the park of Montjuïc. The works started around 1915 with the project of Laribal Garden, of Arabic inspiration and where the current vegetation was integrated. Forestier used the slope of 32 m to design terraces, stairs and waterfalls that took to paths and small squares with benches to rest. He also planned Amargós Garden, honouring who make the first development planning of Montjuïc. This garden takes form into several terraces that have the ancient Babylonian gardens as model. Today, they are known by the name Teatre Grec Garden, in reference to the open air theatre planned in 1920 by Ramon Reventós on the terrains of an old quarry. Amargós Garden had an important rose garden and was conceived to connect Laribal Garden with the centres of the International Exposition on the lower side of the hill, at Passeig de Santa Madrona; that forced to overcome a difference in high of more than 15 m. The big imperial stone staircase overcame the differences between the terraces. The Umbracle Garden, inside the exposition premises, and the garden of the Plaça d’Armes, today of Miramar, are also on account of Forestier. The young Catalan architect Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí (Maó, 1891 – Barcelona, 1981), who was designated director of Public Parks and Trees of Barcelona in 1917, was his disciple and took care to give continuity to Forestier’s work.

    History and curiosities: 

    Forestier planned also the landscaping of America Avenue in the Exposition (today, Avinguda de Maria Cristina), with rows of plane trees that had cube-shaped topiary crowns. This one was his last performance in Barcelona: he was fired by the City Council established during Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (1923).

    In his book Montjuïc, la muntanya de la ciutat, town planner Estanislau Roca explains that the upcoming dictatorship and the economic crisis favoured the apparition of a project of garden city that made the private plots of land arrive to the gates of the exposition centres. If this would had been accepted, it would had meant one step back on the recuperation of the hill for the town, like it was imagined by Forestier, and it could have jeopardized the future of most of Montjuïc, losing its public nature.

    Rubió i Tudurí, who was Forestier’s wholehearted helper from the start, was appointed director of Public Parks of Barcelona City Council and for twenty years (from 1917 to 1937, before voluntarily exiling to France) recovered the few green spaces remaining in the town. With a program of acquisitions, he structured a belt of parks on three concentric circles, which went from the park of La Ciutadella to the park of Montjuïc, crossing the parks of Guinardó, Park Güell and Font del Racó. On the outside, there was the big park of Collserola and two river parks around the rivers Besòs and Llobregat. Among Rubió i Tudurí’s works, it has to be remarked the Acclimatisation Garden of Montjuïc, build in 1930 on the plot of land that had occupied Italy’s and Sweden’s pavilion on the exposition of 1929, the Plaça de Francesc Macià, the gardens at the Palau de Pedralbes and the Plaça Gaudí. Forestier’s heritage, preserved by Rubió i Tudurí, has been a reviving and original gardening concept, very influent into the later Barcelonese gardening and landscaping. It has to be also remarked Forestier’s contribution to town’s botanical diversity with the introduction of some exotic species, which he had known thanks to his works in America: the rosewood (Tipuana tipu), the Phytolacca dioica, the blue jacaranda (Jacaranda ovalifolia)...

    Later, on the 1970s, the hill had three new gardens, honouring poets (Mossèn Costa i Llobera, Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, Joan Maragall), and the viewpoint Mirador de L’Alcalde. The second Montjuïc developing boost was consequence of the designation of Barcelona as the venue for the Olympic Games of 1992; the sport facilities and the artistic element were renewed and augmented and the areas that before were occupied by shacks and rubbish dumps were urbanized.

    Today, the City Council has as objective to convert the hill into the big central park of Barcelona. To achieve that, there are projects to improve the access and the public transportation systems, to limit the traffic and to tidy up the landscape and the connexions to the neighbourhoods on both sides of the hill, defining Montjuïc in three arranged strata (from down to up: culture park, sports park, mountain park).

    For further information: 

    AJUNTAMENT DE BARCELONA (ed). Montjuïc, parc central. Barcelona, 2006

    LECLERC, Bénédicte (dir.). Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, 1861 – 1930. Du jardin au paysage urbain. Actes du Colloque international sur J.C.N. Forestier, Paris, 1990. París: Picard, 1994

    ROCA, Estanislau. Montjuïc, la muntanya de la ciutat. Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2000

    SOBREQUÉS i CALLICÓ, Jaume (dir.). Història de Barcelona (8 vol.). Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana, 1991-1992