Portada de la Feria de Sevilla

Do you know the whole story behind the entrance gate to the Seville Fair?

12 of April of 2024

At the end of the 19th century, the engineer Dionisio Pérez Tobías designed a metallic structure that was installed at the crossroads of the Real de la Feria del Prado de San Sebastián, where today we find the fountain of the Four Seasons in Seville. It was a footbridge raised several meters off the ground, which was immediately seen as the official entrance to the fair. This footbridge soon grew from being a simple metal structure into an enduring symbol.

Today, while the Seville Fair has changed in appearance, it has maintained its idiosyncrasy and entrance gate full of meaning. For several decades, Ferrovial has been responsible for the installation of the entrance gate. For the team of workers who make this possible, it is a source of great pride to shape the gateway to this festival that means so much to Seville and to all of us.

The history of the fair’s entrance gate

The history of the entrance gate of the Seville Fair begins in 1896, when the footbridge that served as entrance to the fairgrounds was first installed. Over the years, this footbridge gained prominence, and when it was dismantled in 1921 for the widening of Calle San Fernando it became clear that a replacement had to be found.

Every year from then on an entrance gate to the fair was installed. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, these gates were relatively small in size, but in 1949 the first large-scale gateway was finally installed. The entrance gates that were installed from the mid-20th century onwards were illuminated at night and increasingly resembled those of today.

During those years, the fair itself was also changing, acquiring a more urban character, gaining in popularity, and receiving increasingly large numbers of visitors. In the 1960s, the fairgrounds were already home to a large number of booths, around 300, which at that time were made of wood. A particularly influential event in the history of the fair was the fire of 1964 which devastated more than a hundred of these booths and left many injured and even took one life.

This led to the Seville City Council deciding to change the structures of the wooden booths for metal ones. This transition was carried out by Agroman, starting a story of collaboration that continues to this day. For decades Ferrovial has been responsible for the installation of the structure of the entrance gate, which today measures 50 meters long and 45 meters high, with an approximate width of six or seven meters. In addition, we assemble around 800 of the 1050 booth structures at the fair, as well as the two entrance gates and the altar for the Corpus Christi festival in Seville.

A structure with artisanal value

To understand how the installation of the entrance gate to the Seville Fair is carried out, it is necessary to imagine the whole as a giant puzzle, a great system in which everything is connected. Ferrovial is responsible for its base, a three-dimensional tubular structure where different metal parts are assembled.

In the 1960s, Agroman patented a T-piece to make the connections between these pipes. These pieces are no longer used today, however. The joints of the current structure are based on a piece that joins one pipe to another, called a “coupler”.

From this structure, grids and plans are created, which are numbered and serve to understand the entire gateway facade. This helps shape the next step: the wooden cladding. Our team obtains custom-made panels that are then hand-painted in an artisanal fashion.

This traditional character is closely linked to the very nature of the fair and to the fact that Seville City Council seeks to ensure that traditions and craft trades are preserved. This is a goal shared with other celebrations in Seville, such as Easter. At Ferrovial, we have carpenters who for many years have been making the cornices, battlements, and all the other wooden elements that are then painted.

These painted panels then go to the electricians, who install the lighting systems (based on LEDs in recent years). We then assemble the panels with the help of lifting platforms and finally the electrical company connects all the electrified panels. In total, each entrance gate features some 4000 carefully connected pieces.

However, once the gate has been assembled, what we see is not this complex puzzle; rather, we see a final design that changes every year and which is dazzling with lights and color. Once the fair is over, Seville City Council launches a competition to choose the design for the following year’s entrance gate.

On some occasions, the competition is subject to a theme, which has led to the design of emblematic gates such as that of 2010, a tribute to the centenary of the first flight over Seville, or that of 2011, which commemorated the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

In 2024, the design is the work of the Seville-based Italian architect Davide Gambini and recreates the Mudejar Pavilion of the 1929 Seville Exhibition (a building that currently houses the Museum of Arts and Customs of the Province, the work of the regionalist architect Aníbal González, also the architect of the well-known Plaza de España).

Ferrovial’s footprint

Throughout these decades in charge of the installation of the Seville fair entrance gate, we have also been leaving our mark. For example, we have significantly improved safety during assembly and disassembly. We have incorporated perimeter safety trays which are equipped with nets to prevent falls. We also use them between the different floors and levels of the structure, preventing falls to different levels internally. If any fall should occur, there is always a net system guaranteeing safety.

The next step to improve safety may be related to the installation of a fire protection system, which is currently being studied.

Ferrovial’s footprint is also marked by the commitment of each and every one of the workers who participate in the project. I am from Seville, specifically from Triana, close to the fairgrounds, and for me it is a source of pride to be involved with the entrance gate and the fair every year. The rest of the team are also from Seville or nearby towns, and they are committed to their work. The Seville Fair is very important, so this work makes us proud and touches us all deeply.

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