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Park Guell

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The Park Entrance

Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted by a pair of gingerbread-style houses at the main gate. Around the time that these were built, Gaudí was reportedly working on some set designs for a Hansel and Gretel production in Barcelona. That production is said to be the motivation behind these creations. Each gatehouse follows the mosaic collage technique found throughout the park and feature mushroom-inspired chimneys. Mushroom gathering is a revered pastime in the Catalonia region, so the inclusion of these shapes point to Gaudí’s fervent nationalism. The rounded shapes erupting with color featured at the entrance provide a hint of what’s to come in the rest of the park.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia (Bgag)

The Lizard Fountain

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the park is the ornate mosaic lizard located just steps inside the entrance. Gaudí created this statue in collaboration with Josep Maria Jujol, a fellow Catalan architect who used a similar style and who helped design many other parts of the park. This lizard has become an icon of Park Güell and is a popular tourist photo opportunity. A victim of vandalism in 2007, the statue is also a functioning fountain.

Photo by Turisme de Barcelona/Espai d’Imatge

The Serpentine Bench

Jujol’s distinctive style can also be found in the serpentine bench, another recognizable part of the park that he helped design. Located in the elevated square supported by 86 columns, the bench is said to be the longest in the world. This multi-colored seat is a celebration of the trencadis technique, which is native to the Catalonia region. This method uses shards of broken tiles and pottery to form a colorful mosaic. This system, used widely throughout the park, was pioneered by Gaudí and Jujol.

Photo courtesy Turisme de Barcelona/J. Trullàs

The Washerwoman’s Path

To the left of the main stairway lies the camí de la bugadera or “path of the washerwoman.” In order to connect different park areas given the unevenness of the terrain, Gaudí created a viaduct system using slanted columns. He then decorated these pathways using rough stone from the park to blend in with the surroundings. A column at the end of this corridor features an image of a washerwoman with a large bin of laundry on her head. This innovative architectural technique represents a clear union between inventive design and natural environment.

Photo courtesy of the Tourist Office of Spain

The Bird Nests

On the walls surrounding the sprawling main terrace of the park is another example of nature’s influence on Gaudí’s work. Gaudí created several structures on the wall that resemble bird nests. The pattern featured on these walls mimics the look of the trees planted on them. Gaudí spent a lot of his time in nature as a child, and much of his work reflects his relationship with wildlife and the environment. These “nests” overlook the terrace that is home to the famous winding bench, making this spot a great photo opportunity.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia (Walter.Horvath)

The Park’s Legacy

In 1984, Park Güell was included as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) honors places that are deemed of special cultural significance. The unique modernist style of the park, as seen in Gaudí’s trencadis technique, led to its inclusion as part of the architect’s recognized portfolio. Other works included Gaudí’s Casa Milà, Palau Güell, and La Sagrada Família. UNESCO explained that Gaudí’s “exceptional and outstanding” architectural accomplishments warranted the recognition.

Photo courtesy of the Tourist Office of Spain

Located minutes from downtown Barcelona, Park Güell is one of the most celebrated works of famed local architect Antoni Gaudí. Spread over 37 acres, this park provides superb views while featuring many unique elements of Gaudí’s design style. Now officially a public park, Park Güell was the brainchild of the well-known industrialist Eusebi Güell , who originally envisioned a housing community when he hired Gaudí as the architect in 1900. Under construction from 1900 to 1914, the development never materialized as only two houses were built and the city took over the property in 1926. Güell’s failed business venture turned out to be Barcelona’s gain, as the park has become one of the city’s most popular tourist sites. Home to inventive stone structures and intricate mosaic tiling, Park Güell offers a glimpse into the distinctive artistic imagination of Antoni Gaudí.

By Andy McPartland

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