One of Gaudí’s most iconic works: Barcelona’s remarkable Park Güell

Panoramic view of the entrance to the Park Güell. By Mstyslav Chernov – CC BY-SA 3.0

Park Güell is a spectacular public park and one of the early landmarks of Catalan Modernism. The park was designed in 1900-1914 by Antoni Gaudí, one of the most famous architects of all time.

However, the original plan for the site was not to create the most iconic park in Barcelona, but a residential area, where the elite of the city would live.

Count Eusebi Güell came up with the idea of building a housing development on Carmel Hill, with magnificent views over the sea and the urban metropolis.

He envisioned the inhabitants of this estate, being surrounded by nature, away from the noisy and polluted city, would benefit from a tranquil atmosphere and fresh air.

For the purpose, Güell purchased a property in the area known as Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain). Güell sought inspiration for his estate in English residential parks and, after presenting his ideas to Gaudi, the design of the estate was finally concluded.

Gaudí’s plans for the estate were as remarkable as the rest of his work: it had a complex network of paths and viaducts, 60 houses, a chapel, a theatre, and of course vegetation, which was highly regarded by the architect.

Houses in Park Güell designed by Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona, Spain. Bernard Gagnon. CC BY-SA 3.0

He introduced many exotic plants, such as cypresses, olives, figs, cork oaks, eucalyptus, palm trees, and almond trees that are still in the park. As great as the project was, sadly it was never fully completed.

In 1914, with only two houses built, works on the project had stopped since no one was interested in buying a house in the estate that was away from the city and had no proper public transport.

In 1918, Eusebi Güell passed away and his successors gave the property to the City Council, who officially opened it as a public park in 1926.

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.

Despite its failings as a residential estate, Park Güell remains one of Gaudí’s most famous masterpieces. Its design is inspired by the organic forms of nature, with the curved lines characteristic of Gaudí’s works.

The most impressive of all the entrances to the park is the one with the main gates followed by a grand staircase, where the most well known sculpture is located — the lizard.

Gaudí’s multi-colored mosaic salamander. William Avery. CC BY-SA 3.0

There are many mythological elements throughout the park since both Gaudí and Güel were fascinated by Greek mythology.

For instance, the colorful lizard that looks like a guardian of the park is interpreted as the mythical dragon-serpent Python, which guarded the High Priestess Pythia of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

The High Priestess was consulted by many ancient Greeks when they were about to make a big decision concerning their future.

Main entrance. Fabio Alessandro Locati. CC BY-SA 3.0

The terrace, the focal point of the park, is ornamented with small pieces of broken ceramics that form a colorful mosaic. It is shaped to look like a snake and it’s a favorite spot for many tourists, mostly because it offers breathtaking views of the city.

Gaudí’s mosaic work on the main terrace. Author: en:User:Burn the asylum. CC BY-SA 3.0

The colorful terrace is supported by 86 enormous Doric columns, and the area is known as the Hall of Columns. Its ceiling is also decorated with images made of many pieces of broken ceramics, among which is a remarkable octopus mosaic.

In Gaudí’s original plans, the hall was supposed to be a market for the residents of the estate.

Hall of Columns. Ronny Siegel. CC BY 4.0

The small pavilion consists of two charming and unusual houses, whose design is inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel.

Pavilion at the entrance

The home of Gaudí, where he lived from 1906 to 1925, still stands in Park Güel. Since 1963, the house has been turned into a Gaudí House Museum, where some of the furniture designed by Antoni Gaudí is on display.

Ironically, the building wasn’t designed by Gaudí, but by his friend Francesc d’Assís Berenguer i Mestres.

The Gaudí House Museum. Georges Jansoone (JoJan). CC BY 3.0

As well as being a devout Catholic, known as God’s architect, many believe that Gaudí was also a Freemason. These ideas are based on some details, interpreted as mystic symbols, that Gaudi used in his works.

For instance, among the signs in the park is the staircase that counts 33 steps, which is the highest degree in the Freemasonry and the dominance of the sacred Masonic number five.

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Whether conspiracy or hidden signs, Parc Güell remains one of Gaudí’s most iconic works and since 1984 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.