If there’s ever a contest for the craziest and most lethal architecture, this mercury fountain will surely take the prize! Created by American sculptor Alexander Calder in 1937, this mercury fountain resides in Barcelona and surely is pure nope in case you don’t want to die from mercury poising!
The Spanish government commissioned Calder to create this art in commemoration of the world’s oldest and largest mercury mine in the Spanish town of Almaden. At that time, Almaden mining field was home to the world’s prime reserve of cinnabar, which is the base mineral for mercury. The town is said to have produced over 250,000 metric tons of mercury until 2010. It was a time when the mines closed due to the price disintegration of mercury in the international market.
Mercury (Hg) is a metal element, the only one that is liquid at room temperature. But more aptly, it is widely known for its toxic properties and can become lethal with someone merely inhaling the vapour or ingesting it in any of its forms.
The Almaden Mercury gained a lot of notoriety for killing a huge number of slaves and criminals that laboured in the noxious mines.
The mercury fountain in Spain has some political connotations as well. They are related to the Spanish civil war in 1936. Back then, the Republican government’s opposition, fascist General Franco’s Falangist movement took over the town of Almaden and with it the mercury mines. As a result, the Spanish government got deprived of the commercial gains and one of the key ingredients of their firearms. So in 1937, the regime was striving hard to regain control of Almaden. This prompted the Republican government to commission the creation of the mercury fountain to symbolize the denouncement of the city’s siege. The artwork was revealed at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 (Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques Dans la Vie Moderne) along with many other symbolic Spanish Republican artwork like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica painting.
The mercury fountain is currently displayed in the Catalan museum. So the spectacle of pure liquid mercury being pumped out can be viewed by the tourists through a thick, protective glass pane.