Park Güell

Coordinates: 41°24′49″N 2°09′10″E / 41.41361°N 2.15278°E / 41.41361; 2.15278

Park Güell (Catalan: Parc Güell, IPA: ) is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of el Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí".

Origins as a Housing Development

The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell, whom the park was named after. It was inspired by the English garden city movement; hence the original English name Park (in the Catalan language spoken in Catalonia where Barcelona is located, the word for "Park" is "Parc", and the name of the place is "Parc Güell" in its original language). The site was a rocky hill with little vegetation and few trees, called Muntanya Pelada (Bare Mountain). It already included a large country house called Larrard House or Muntaner de Dalt House, and was next to a neighborhood of upper class houses called La Salut (The Health). The intention was to exploit the fresh air (well away from smoky factories) and beautiful views from the site, with sixty triangular lots being provided for luxury houses. Count Eusebi 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, Gaudí, at Güell's suggestion, 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 Gaudí Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) since 1963. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.

Municipal Garden

It has since been converted into a municipal garden. It can be reached by underground railway (although the stations are at a distance from the Park and at a much lower level below the hill), by city buses, or by commercial tourist buses. While entrance to the Park is free, Gaudí's house, "la Torre Rosa," — containing furniture that he designed — can be only visited for an entrance fee. There is a reduced rate for those wishing to see both Park Güell and the Sagrada Família Church.

Park Güell is skillfully designed and composed to bring the peace and calm that one would expect from a park. The buildings flanking the entrance, though very original and remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles, fit in well with the use of the park as pleasure gardens and seem relatively inconspicuous in the landscape when one considers the flamboyance of other buildings designed by Gaudí.

The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. To design the curvature of the bench surface Gaudí used the shape of buttocks left by a naked workman sitting in wet clay. 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. The visitor was originally greeted by two life-size mechanical gazelles (a major euphemistic symbol of 'the young beloved' in the Hebrew strand of the medieval love poetry of the region), but these have since been lost during the turbulence of war.

Roadways around the park to service the intended houses were designed by Gaudí as structures jutting out from the steep hillside or running on viaducts, with separate footpaths in arcades formed under these structures. This minimized the intrusion of the roads, and Gaudí designed them using local stone in a way that integrates them closely into the landscape. His structures echo natural forms, with columns like tree trunks supporting branching vaulting under the roadway, and the curves of vaulting and alignment of sloping columns designed in a similar way to his Church of Colònia Güell so that the inverted catenary arch shapes form perfect compression structures.

The large cross at the Park's high-point offers the most complete view of Barcelona and the bay. It is possible to view the main city in panorama, with the Sagrada Família and the Montjuïc area visible at a distance.

The observant visitor will notice green birds flying around amongst the pigeons and sparrows. These are monk parakeets that have became a common species with a growing population started from some individuals escaped from captivity sometime in the 70s. Like the pigeons they nest in the tall palm trees. Another bird to look out for is the hummingbird that can be seen on some days, if you look hard enough.

Gallery of Images
  • View from the main terrace of the park.

  • Entrance to the Park.

  • The dragon, as restored after the vandalism of February 2007.

  • Doric columns support the roof of the lower court which forms the central terrace, with serpentine seating round its edge.

  • The unique shape of the serpentine bench enables the people sitting 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.

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  • Bird nests built by Gaudí in the terrace walls. The walls imitate the trees planted on them.

  • An uninterrupted view of the terrace walls.

  • Roadway in the Park - resembles the pine trees of the park. In order to fit in, the road and walkway structures between the terraces were built with stones quarried within the park. Bird nests have been installed in the walkways.

  • Colonnaded footpath under the roadway viaduct, with external columns sloping to take the diagonal thrust from the vault supporting the road.

  • Colonnaded pathway where the road projects out from the hillside, with the vaulting forming a retaining wall which curves over to support the road, and transmits the load onto sloping columns.

  • Another of Gaudí's Tiled Mosaics on the ceiling.

  • One of Gaudí's unique tiles in Parc Güell

  • Pavilion at the entrance

  • Third fountain at the entrance with the dragon


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