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Güell Park: fairytale architecture

  • Güell Park. Barcelona © Turespaña

    Güell Park. Barcelona © Turespaña


"The architect’s passions for natural shapes can be seen in all four corners. Gaudí wanted human intervention in the forest to be integrated into the landscape and complement it. ..."

The architect’s passions for natural shapes can be seen in all four corners. Gaudí wanted human intervention in the forest to be integrated into the landscape and complement it. Without doubt, he achieved just this. Snails, mushrooms, leaves, trunks or elephants are constant leitmotifs in the mosaics and architectural shapes. Even the top of the chimney on the caretaker’s house has an inverted mushroom shape.

Like few others, Gaudí represents an artist before his time, misunderstood when he was alive. It was largely thanks a powerful, visionary art-loving industrialist, Eusebi Güell, that Gaudí could create what his restless min thought up. The original idea behind Güell Park came about in 1900 when Eusebi Güell bought a hillside on El Carmel mountain, which at that time was in the outskirts of Barcelona, to create an estate he commissioned from Gaudí. The aim was to imitate the English model of a city-garden (from there the name Park), by creating a few dozen homes in an idyllic setting for people with high spending power who wanted to move out of the crowded unhealthy city. Three kilometres of paths, a square, steps, the concierge pavilion and even a show home were built to convince possible clients. After fourteen years the project was declared a commercial failure and abandoned. Eusebi Güell died in his house in Park Güell, and his heirs offered the park to the City Council, which bought it in 1922 and opened it as a municipal park in 1926.

Forest of the Fairies

When coming into the park we come across a curious house which is a sign that we are entering the world of the fairytale. It was the concierges’ house and is now the visitor’s welcome centre. Steps lead up to the park with one of Güell Park and Barcelona’s symbols: the famous polychrome dragon covered in small coloured mosaic tiles. This is a typical technique in Gaudí’s work and can be seen across the park. It is known as trencadís and uses irregular tile pieces and other materials for covering objects. The pieces used come from tiles broken on purpose and waste from other buildings. Much of the trencadís covering was the work of Josep Maria Jujol, Gaudí’s assistant and outstanding disciple.

The Hipòstile room is accessed at the end of the steps – a stone forest comprising 86 columns and which was originally designed to be the market where owners would shop, without having to head into the city. Just on top is the large square, with marvellous views out over Barcelona. The entire border of the square is marked out by a snaking bench covered in trencadís. Not only the bench snakes: all the paths in the park do this, as well as the porches and viaducts. As it well-known, straight lines were not common in the Catalan architect’s work.

Gaudí himself came to live in the show home in 1906 with his father and his niece, and lived there until 1926, when he moved to the basement of his masterpiece: the Sagrada Familia.  At present the house is the Gaudí Museum, where furniture pieces created by the artist as well as models, drawings and other curious personal objects are on display.

When Gaudí gained his architecture degree, Elies Rogent, head of the Barcelona School of Architecture, said: “Whether we have given a degree to a madman or a genius only time will tell.” Undoubtedly, time has opted for the second choice and Güell Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, is proof of this.

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