Restoration of the Fountain of los Leones in the Alhambra

Granada, Granada, Andalucía.

Dating of the building: 13th century.

Applicant: María del Mar Villafranca Jiménez.

Reason for the award :

The award recognizes the complex restoration of this emblematic monument, through a complicated process that was not without great difficulties; the jury has valued the quality of the investigations carried out, and the methodology followed, as well as public access to the patio.

The restoration of the lions and the fountain – in the heart of the most significant Nasrid palace – as well as the renovation of the complicated water supply system has been a real challenge in terms of conservation.

The name by which this Alhambra palace is universally recognized is due to the marble fountain located in the centre of the courtyard, a dodecagonal cup that rests on the back of the figures of the twelve lions. This fountain functionally and symbolically is the centre of the entire aesthetic programme of the palace, following an imaginary poetic line that crosses it from north to south, integrating water and garden with architecture. The fountain has an ingenious hydraulic system that allows it to maintain a constant water level in the basin. The lions are arranged with their backs to the basin and spouts expel water from their mouths, in a symbolic attitude of courage and generosity. They all simulate a state of alertness, folded tails, perched ears, clenched jaws, serene but alert attitude at the command of their lord the Sultan. Apparently identical, their restoration has revealed a multitude of features that distinguish them individually. The natural veins of the stone highlight the rounded shapes of the lion, and in the modeling of its figure distinctive coats contrast, jaws with sharp teeth and very marked folds, prominent snouts, almond-shaped eyes, delicate details such as the hair on the limbs or the uniqueness of each phalanx. The restoration was a large-scale project executed in several stages, beginning with the study of the microclimate of the courtyard and continuing with lion number 4 in 2002. Work continued between 2007 and 2010 with the restoration of the remaining eleven lions and the fountain cup.

The final stage included paving the Macael white marble patio in 2012. The objectives were to guarantee historical authenticity by returning to the original pavement and improve access and public enjoyment of this magical space.

All of this has led to a closed-circuit clean water recycling system installation to treat the water integrally and allow a slight temperature rise when the fountain is active on days with risk of freezing. The system is completed during the winter with the partial emptying of the pipes at the end of the day. All these works, of high technical complexity, have returned to the heart of the first Nasrid palace its original beauty.

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