16 Jan And if the Park Güell project had gone ahead?
After the Sagrada Familia, the Park Güell is the most visited tourist site in Barcelona, with nearly 3 million visitors a year. Located on the hill of El Carmel, the park has a breath-taking panoramic view of the entire city. It has also been a UNESCO World Heritage since 1984 as part of Antoni Gaudí’s works.
Discover some surprising facts about the history of this park, an absolute marvel designed by one of Spain’s most famous architects, Antoni Gaudí. The park is the fruit of an idea by Eusebi Güell, one of his Gaudi’s best friends as well as his patron.
Originally, the park was intended to be a garden city, reserved for Barcelona’s elite.
One of the most surprising facts about the Park Güell is that it was not at all intended to be a public park. Antoni Gaudí and Eusebi Güell had in mind to create a modern residential complex, reserved exclusively for the high society of Barcelona. They planned to build on the complex 60 houses with modern equipment such as running water. They also planned the market, the Laundry Room Portico, a church and a public square. The chosen location was ideal due to its peaceful natural setting, far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
This part of the project was nonetheless quickly abandoned.
Work on the park started in 1900 and ended in 1914. The estimated cost of the project was so exorbitant that only the park layout as well as 2 of the 60 planned pavilions could be completed. Plans to build the rest were very quickly abandoned.
The Park Güell became the property of Barcelona city in 1923 but would not open its doors to the public until 1926.
Today, the Park Güell has several entrances but the most impressive of them is the main entrance on the Carrer d’Olot on the south side, from where one can admire the splendid staircase leading to the Hypostyle Room.
Access to nearly 95% of the Park is free. You’ll need to pay to visit the “Zona Monumental” however,which includes the Dragon Stairs with its popular salamander, the terrace with its famous snake-shaped mosaic bench and the market place. Visitors to this area are limited to 400 people per 30-minute period.
The 2 pavilions located on either side of the main entrance were originally intended for the Conciergerie. The left pavilion served as a porter’s lodge, where there is a telephone booth and a waiting room. The pavilion on right is called the Casa Guarda and was used as a residence for its namesake, as well as being used as a show-house to attract investors. The latter is now part of the Barcelona History Museum.
Both pavilions have splendid roofs, covered with traditional Catalan clay tiles and mosaics in a technique called trencadís.
“Trencadís” is one of the architect’s signature techniques, and he always found a way of incorporating it, one way or another, into his works. A classic example is the famous salamander located in the centre of the stairs.
“Park” in English, but why not “Parc” in Catalan?
Inspired by the British tendency towards garden cities in the nineteenth century, Antoni Gaudí decided to call it the Park Güell thus keeping the English spelling.
Gaudí lived in the park until his death.
When no investors showed any interest in Gaudi and Güell’s pavilions, the project fell through. So, in 1906, Gaudi decided to buy the show-home built on the grounds. He settled in there to live with his family until 1926, when he was the victim of a tragic tramway accident in Barcelona. Immediately following the accident, he was left for dead by passers-by who mistook him for a poor person due to his modest clothing.
Eusebi Güell, meanwhile, acquired the prestigious Casa Larrard, which was already present on the site at the time of purchase.
He actually lived in a house he had not designed himself!
It would be logical to think that the pavilions of Park Güell were the exclusive work of Gaudi but that’s not really the case.
Actually the one in which he lived, called the “Casa Rosa”, was designed by another Catalan architect by the name of Francesc Berenguer. Today it has been transformed into the Gaudí House Museum, where examples of Gaudí’s work are on display.
The Park Güell is more than just a park.
Visitors to Park Güell tend to only visit the main part of the park, called the “Zona Monumental”, as this is where we find most of Gaudí’s work.
And yet a large area requiring no admission ticket extends beyond the “zona monumental”. It’s an ideal place to go for a long walk in an environment with rich and varied vegetation.
A park inspired by nature
One of the most characteristic features of Antoni Gaudí’s work is the way in which he communicates his fascination for the natural world. Everything he created, from the motifs that he uses, to the way in which he conceives his works, was inspired by nature. Moreover, he built the park fully respecting the natural environment on which it was built, using the topography of the hills rather than transforming it. So, it’s no coincidence if the forms and structures of his columns are strangely reminiscent of tree trunks. The same themes can also be found in his other major work, the Sagrada Familia.
This is also why there are no straight structures or lines in the park.
The commitment of Gaudí to the principles of natural creation expresses itself through the total absence
of straight lines in his designs,
consistent with their non-existence
in nature itself. This is why he
preferred the use of irregular, inclined
or curved lines, thus imitating the
natural forms found in trees, shells, plants, rocks, etc.
The park is named after Gaudí’s patron.
Have you ever wondered why the park is called the Park Güell and not the Park Gaudí?
Much too modest to name his own works after himself, Gaudí preferred to name the park “Park Güell” in honour of his patron and best friend Eusebi Güell.
Did you know?
The park is not the only work of Gaudí to bear the name of Güell: we also have the Colonia Güell and the Palau Güell.
It was in the park that Gaudí’s famous “trencadís” technique was born.
Gaudí was the first to use the “trencadís” technique, which consisted of creating pieces with colourful patterns made from a multitude of small fragments of coloured ceramic tiles. His most famous work is a fine example of this mosaic style, and one that would make the technique popular: the multi-coloured salamander at the foot of the staircase of the “zona monumental” in the Park Güell.
He uses this same technique in his works throughout the park including the mosaic bench that meanders along the terrace and the Philosopher’s Stone at the entrance.