You surely heard a lot of stories about Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell. As you may know, it’s one of Barcelona’s most scenic spots of them all. Located in the Gracia district, it is divided into two zones: the monumental zone, a World Heritage Site, and the adjacent forest zone. You definitely mustn’t miss spaces such as the Pórtico de la Lavandera, the Greek Theatre, the viaducts… Want to discover some of its curiosities?
Why “Park Güell”?
Eusebi Güell entrusted Gaudí with the project of creating an urbanization for wealthy families on a large estate that he had acquired in the area known as Montaña Pelada. Güell wanted to recreate the British residential parks and for that reason he called it Park Güell, using the word park in English. Another theory points out that from the beginning it was going to be an urbanized park, that is, a private park in which some houses would be installed.
It was not meant to become a park
Park Güell was originally envisaged as a modern housing estate. It wasn’t originally planned to be a park at all. Gaudí’s plan was to create a modern housing estate far from the smog and chaos of the city down below. His plans called for houses with modern conveniences such as running water as well as facilities such as a market, a laundry room, a church and a public square.
Gaudí moved there in 1906 with his father and his niece. But only two of the planned 60 plots were sold: the one where the Gaudí House-Museum is currently located and the Trías house, owned by Martí Trias i Domènech.
Later they realized that the project was not going to come to fruition. In 1914 the works were paralyzed by the First World War and due to the lack of buyers and the large urbanization became a public park, inaugurated in 1926. After Eusebi Güell died in 1918, his heirs sold it to the Barcelona City Council.
It wasn’t until 1969 that Spain recognized this as an important and historical spot. They declared Park Güell as a Monument of Cultural Interest, because of it’s architectural and artistic uniqueness. It would take 15 years for UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site, in 1984.
Later, in 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added six more Gaudí buildings on the list: the Güell Palace, Casa Milá, Casa Vicens, Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and the crypt of Colonia Güell.
“These works testify to the exceptional contribution of Gaudí’s creations to the evolution of architecture and construction techniques at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. They are the expression of an eclectic and highly personal style that their author gave free rein to not only in architecture, but also in gardening, sculpture and many other decorative arts”, says UNESCO about Gaudí’s legacy.
Hall of the Hundred Columns… but there are 86?
There is no doubt that the Hypostyle Hall is one of the most emblematic points of the visit. This corner of the park is also known as the” Hall of the Hundred Columns”. However, this name is not entirely accurate as there are actually 86 columns.
The room supports the upper esplanade, initially conceived to serve as a market to supply the new residents of this exclusive (and unsuccessful) real estate development. Unfortunately it could not be possible but nowadays serves as a great picture spot.
The exterior columns: why so inclined?
The reason? Gaudí himself solves it: “They asked me why I made inclined columns, to which I replied: ‘For the same reason that the tired walker, when stopping, supports himself with the inclined cane, since if he put it vertical he would not rest”.
Gaudí’s house was not designed by Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí lived for 21 years in one of the houses that were built in the park but curiously it was not designed by himself. His assistant, Francesc Berenguer, designed his boss’ house between 1904 and 1906. It was later acquired by Gaudí when the failure of the project was seen.
The house was sold when the architect died. The amount collected was used for the works of the Sagrada Familia, as Gaudí had written in his will. The house was acquired by an Italian couple. In 1963 it was bought by the “Friends of Gaudí Association” and they founded a museum dedicated to the architect’s legacy.
Trencadís: what is it?
The use of mosaics dates back to the Bronze Age. Advancing in time, the Romans and Greeks perfected the technique and the Modernism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries converted them into a hallmark. Inseparable from Gaudí’s work, the trencadís (Catalan term to designate this union of ceramic fragments) appears in many areas of Park Güell. Gaudí made them with leftover pottery from the Pujol i Bausis factory in Esplugues de Llobregat, and fragments from other parts.
Is it a salamander or a dragon?
the statue doesn’t have a tail at all, although some suggest that the queue is the stairway itself.
Others say that it can also represent an alchemical salamander, which symbolizes fire.This would not be surprising since there are mythological influences on Gaudí when building the park, specifically from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.
What we know for sure -and there is no hesitation at all- is that it is one of the favorite places for tourists to take pictures in Barcelona.
Wanna visit Park Güell? Come and join us.