The name Antoni Gaudí is one that is synonymous with Barcelona. He is Spain’s most prolific architect and some his most important works are in the city. He is a massive draw for many holidays makers who want to come and see his work. Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous churches in Europe if not the world and is a proud addition to the Barcelona skyline. An architect’s forte is buildings, not many of them get to design an entire park!
Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements located on Carmel Hill in La Salut, a neighborhood in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. With urbanization in mind, Eusebi Güell assigned the design of the park to Gaudí, already a renowned architect and the face of Catalan modernism. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park and six other Gaudí structures around the city as World Heritage Sites.
The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site. It was inspired by the English garden city movement; hence the original English name Park (in Catalan the name is “Parc Güell”). The site was a rocky hill with little vegetation and few trees. It already included a large country house called Larrard House. The idea of the park’s location was to exploit the fresh air and be well away from smoky factories. Being high up as well there would be beautiful views from the site, ideal selling points for the planned sixty luxury houses they wanted to build up there. Count Güell added to the prestige of the development by moving in 1906 to live in Larrard House. Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudí. One was intended to be a show house, but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward so Gaudí bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906. This house, where Gaudí lived from 1906 to 1926, was built by Francesc Berenguer in 1904. It contains original works by Gaudí and several of his collaborators. It is now the Gaudi House Museum. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.
Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí’s artistic attitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase which was mostly in the first decade of the 20th century. During this period, he perfected his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes. If you look at Gaudí structures they are rarely symmetrical, they are always wavey and organic. Gaudí, who was a devoted Catholic said ‘God doesn’t build in straight lines so why should I?’ Instead he put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in the analysis of geometry. To that, the Catalan artist adds creative liberty and an imaginative, ornamental creation. Starting from a sort of baroquism, his works acquire a structural richness of forms and volumes, free of the rational rigidity or any sort of classic premises. In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his artistic genius and put to practice much of his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style and that would culminate in the creation of Sagrada Familia which he would work on until his death in 1926.
Güell and Gaudí conceived this park as one that is situated within a natural park. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes which would be artists that they admired, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch. They also envisioned a community strongly influenced by symbolism in the common elements of the park, they were trying to bring together many of the political and religious ideals they shared. There are noticeable concepts originating from political Catalanism especially in the entrance stairway where the Catalan countries are represented and from Catholicism such as the Monumento al Calvario which was originally designed to be a chapel. The mythological elements are so important: apparently Güell and Gaudí’s conception of the park was also inspired by the Temple of Apollo of Delphi in Greece.
The main focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere. Gaudí incorporated many motifs of Catalan nationalism, and elements from religious mysticism and ancient poetry, into the Park. Much of the design of the benches was the work not of Gaudí but of his often overlooked collaborator Josep Maria Jujol.
Parc Guell can be reached by the metro station Lesseps although the stations are at a distance from the Park and at a much lower level below the hill so you can expect a little hike up there once you exit!, Since October 2013 there is an entrance fee of 7 euros to visit the Monumental Zone which is the main entrance, terrace, and the parts containing mosaics but the entrance to the Park remains free. In fact 90% of this park is free to walk around it is only the area where people want to take pictures that you need to pay to get into. Gaudí’s house, “la Torre Rosa,” – containing furniture that he designed – can be only visited for another entrance fee. There is a reduced rate for those wishing to see both Gaudí’s house and the Sagrada Família so before coming check online for tickets because you can find discounts when booked together and in advance. You will also find one of the most beautiful views of Barcelona at the very highest point in the park where there is a cross looking out over the city. It is well worth the walk up there so do take the time, and a bottle of water! And head on up there!