Park Güell is more than a park; it is a symbol of Barcelona.
It is unique in the world as it was envisaged as a monumental space where the natural environment was inseparable from the architectural elements.
Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) initially envisaged it as a garden city commissioned by the textile industrialist and Gaudí’s patron and friend: Eusebi Güell (1846-1918), who bought an extensive ten square quilometer rural estate called “La Muntanya Pelada”(Bare Mountain) located in “Turó del Carmel” in 1899 with the intention of creating a garden city like those in England at that period for rich families. Due to industrialisation since 1840 Barcelona was quickly increasing its population. The ancient walls were demolished by 1854 and allowed the city expansion, the rural state bought was five times the bigger than the medieval Barcelona.
Gaudí’s project basically consisted of building 62 single family houses and was supposed to include public use areas, like a great covered square – which was the market -, an open-air theatre, a chapel on top, a caretaker’s building, a services building – with reception and a public telephone – and other communal services. Factories, clinics, workshops and industry were expressly eliminated, as it would have distorted the project’s principles of a return to nature in oppsition to the crowded, noisy and polluted industrial cities. The main idea was to dignify human life.
Construction conditions were strict. Separation walls between lots shouldn’t exceed 40cm height, to avoid a fragmented vision of the park. It was only permitted to build using one sixth of the plot, so most of the space of the plot had to be dedicated to garden.
Park Güell is a combination of open and closed spaces. There is a huge variety of spaces.
Güell dind’t allowed any specific public transportation program to the garden city from Barcelona. The project was unsuccessful; only two plots sold, and it was stopped in 1914 while the First World War was beginning, though some of the communal spaces had already been constructed. In 1922, four years after the death of Eusebi Güell, the Barcelona City Council bought the estate in order to turn it into a public park. By 2013 the acces to the Monumental Zone is regulated.
The anagrams are written in English. The main entrance is watched over by 2 pavilions with rounded shapes and bursting with light and colour. Caretaker’s and services (telephone, waiting room and toilet) buildings.
The monumental stairway is presided over by the “trencadís” (skin using irregularly-shaped pieces of broken ceramic) salamander (Guardian), which emphasises the importance of pedestrian access to the collective areas of the garden city, the market and the square.
It permits a gradual and slow ascent through the luminous skin of the surrounding walls.
The “Sala Hipóstila”, which was supposed to house the garden city’s market, is formed by 86 Doric columns that also serve as drains. Raining water is filtered, collected through the columns and stored in a chamber that serves as a reservoir. The overflow level point of the cistern is at the salamander mouth. 4 columns are missing, and there is where the ceiling decoration was made by Jujol 1909. It is a collage done with bottles, cups, showing a strong and dynamic expressiveness (note that collage was not used by cubist Picasso until 1912)(Gaudi’s expressiveness is more modulated and controlled). It is an art work with the poorest materials coming from destroyed old buildings or even from rests of the building site. Here beauty doesn’t come from the beauty of the material chosen but from the strength of an invention of an architect, developer, sculptor and painter.
It was supposed to hold the theatre of nature (Greek theatre).
The square begins in the mountain on solid ground and extends over the columns of the Sala Hipóstila. The trencadís-covered serpentine bench that runs along the perimeter of the square stands out.
Its shape was made after Gaudi told a worker to sit and he measured his body while seated.
It enables people seating on it to converse privately although the square is large. The bench is tiled and in order to dry up quickly after it rains, and to stop people from sitting in the wet part of the bench, small bumps were installed by Gaudí.
The bench is a Gaudí and Jujol (decoration) masterpiece, it is considered the first abstract big art work 1910-1913, done before the first abstract painting of Kandinsky. Artists like Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Clavé, Tàpies, Saura, recognize the influence of this bench on their work and some have dedicated an art work to the bench.
The walls of the terrace imitate the trees planted on them and contain bird nests.
The palm tree walk have 101 stone balls, the same number as rosary grains.
The viaducts and roads with different slight slopes were designed for horse-drawn-vehicles or pedestrians and they also have bird nests. Oblique treelike columns built with the stone of the mountain, and the inclined viaducts get integrated into the landscape, giving the effect of a transparent colonnade.
TURO DE LES 3 CREUS-THE CALVARY
The Turó de les Tres Creus was the location that was chosen to erect a large chapel, which was never built because found prehistoric remains, Gaudí was inspired in caves to build the monument. Up there everyone can enjoy fantastic views of Park Güell and Barcelona skyline.
GAUDI HOUSE MUSEUM
The Gaudí House Museum was built between 1904 and 1906. It was designed by Francesc Berenguer for Gaudi’s family. It recreates the atmosphere where the genius lived and has a lot of original furniture. Gaudi bought it and lived there for 20 years almost alone. Gaudí died in 1926 (age 74), a few months ago he settled at the workshop open to the Sagrada Familia. In 1963, the “Friends of Gaudí association” bought the building in order to turn it into a museum.
Gaudí loves nature, form, volume, colour and God. He is austere, vegetarian and likes practicing some exercise.
Although nature seems to remain in the background, it is certain that the architect took it very much into account in order to achieve a perfect symbiosis between stone and greenery. The perspective of the viaduct crowned by palm trees and covered by trees and climbing plants captures the complicity between nature and architecture well. Gaudí preserved the spontaneous vegetation of the place that today constitutes a stretch of forest where Carobs, Oaks, Pines and Holm Oaks are abundant, surrounded by thick scrubland.
LIGHT AND COLOUR
Light and colour are one of the most important construction materials used ever in Mediterranean countries, where objects have a strong plasticity due to their shadow close to 45 degrees. Gaudí uses colour and light as an expression of life.
Park Güell’s singularity was recognised in 1962 by the municipality declaring it artistic monument. In 1969 it was declared a Historical-Artistic Monument of National Interest and then reinforced in 1984 when it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Its consideration as an internationally-recognised monumental space does not detract from its importance as a public park equipped with all the facilities and services that make it suitable for resident and general visitor recreation. The park, which is completely accessible, has children’s play areas, a recreational area for dogs and rest areas.
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