Park Güell is a public park in Barcelona, the capital city of the Spanish region of Catalonia. It was designed in the early 20th century by Antoni Gaudí, and has significant architectural interest. Because of the identity of its architect and its historical importance, it is included as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park, which covers about 42 acres, also contains several garden areas.
Origins and History
The area which is now home to the park was originally used for housing. This was the brainchild of the man who the park was named after, Count Eusebi Güell. His idea was to build a development along the same lines as the garden cities that were springing up in Britain at the start of the 20th century. The site he chose on Muntanya Pelada was rocky and rather bare, but it was set well apart from Barcelona’s industrial areas and relatively free of pollution. Some luxury homes already existed in the area, but Güell planned to build 60 on the vacant lots.
In 1906, Güell moved into a country villa called Larrard House which already stood on the hill. By this time, two houses had been built, but they were to be the only properties ever constructed as part of the initially planned development. When no buyer was found for the show home, Güell suggested to Gaudí that he should buy it, a proposition which the architect accepted. Gaudí brought his family to live at the house, and stayed there for 20 years. In the 1960’s, the historical significance of Gaudí’s residence was recognized, and it has now been given the status of an artistic monument.
The Garden Today
The house that Gaudí lived in is now open to the public, although an entry fee is charged, whereas the park itself can be visited for free. The park buildings that have been added have been designed to be visually striking. These, too, were designed by Gaudí, although they are relatively restrained by comparison with some of his other architectural works. They are notable for their roofs, which slope at odd angles and are often topped by oddly shaped pinnacles.
There is a strong element of Catalan nationalism in many of the park’s features, as well as some influence from the region’s writing and religious traditions. At the park’s center is its main terrace, around which runs a long bench. The bench is intended to represent a sea serpent, its coils snaking around a number of small areas designed for groups to use to socialize. Gaudí also took care to ensure that those visiting the park would feel relaxed, so its landscaping allows for a peaceful, calming atmosphere.
From on top of the hill in the park there are outstanding views across the city and out to the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Elsewhere, road and pedestrian traffic is mostly kept separate, with the roads running above the footpaths, carried on viaducts which blend into the hillside. Park Güell is a haven for several species of bird, including parrots and eagles, while the hummingbird hawk moth also thrives here in considerable numbers.