Originally intended as a housing development project for the elite of Barcelona, Park Güell was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and now stands among the top tourist attractions in the city.
Origins of Park Güell
Antoni Gaudí had a long working relationship with the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell prior to beginning work on Park Güell. The talent of Gaudí first caught the eye of Güell when he saw a window display that Gaudí had planned for glove retailer Esteve Comella at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878.
Later that year, Güell commissioned him to make the furniture for the pantheon chapel at the Palacio de Sobrellano in Comillas, a town on the Cantabrian coast. Gaudí went on to work on the pavilions of the porter’s gatehouse of Finca Güell (1883-1887), situated in Les Corts.
1886 Gaudí began working on Palau Güell in the Raval neighborhood and it was completed in 1888. Between 1895 and 1897 Gaudí built a winery in Garraf, called Bodegas Güell. In 1898 he planned the church for Colònia Güell. Finally, in 1900 Gaudí was commissioned to design Park Güell.
Park Güell belongs to Gaudí’s naturalist phase during the first decade of the 20th century. His work during this period drew inspiration from organic shapes.
Plans for an Exclusive Housing Development
Güell commissioned Gaudí to develop an estate for affluent families on a large property in an area known as the Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain). The location offered sweeping views of the city and clean air, away from the smog of the factories. The plan was to build 60 triangular-shaped plots on the estate for luxurious houses. Güell was inspired by British residential parks, which is why he named it Park Güell, in English. Gaudí preserved the original vegetation on the land such as the carob and olive trees, while introducing selected Mediterranean plants that did not require much water. The park hosts a variety of wildlife, including several of the non-native species of parrot found in the Barcelona area.
Work started in 1900 and by 1903 the two entrance pavilions had been constructed, as well as the main flight of steps. By 1907 events were being held in the great square and the tiled trencadís bench encircling it in the form of a sea serpent it was completed in 1914. Gaudí incorporated motifs of Catalan nationalism, Catholicism and mythology into the park.
In 1902 the lawyer Martí Trias i Domènech, a friend of Güell, bought the first plot. A show house was also built at this time and in 1906 Gaudí moved into it with his father and niece. In 1907, Eusebi Güell converted Casa Larrard, by the entrance to the park, into his home.
From Private Estate to Public Park
Complex conditions for sale of the plots, the lack of a practical transport system and the exclusive nature of the development led to a lack of buyers. Work halted in 1914, with only two of the sixty houses planned having been built. The park then became a large private garden, which Güell allowed to be used for public events. The main terrace was often used to host Catalanist events, traditional Catalan Sardana dancing and other social events.
Eusebi Güell died at his house in 1918, and his heirs offered the park to the City Council, who agreed to purchase it in 1922. In 1926 it was opened as a municipal park. Casa Larrard was converted into a State school, named after the teacher Baldiri Reixac. In 1963, Gaudi’s house in Park Güell was opened to the public as Gaudí House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí).
How to get to Parc Güell
The nearst metro station is Lesseps (Green Line L3). From there it is about a 20 minute walk which is signposted. The Hop on hop off sightseeing tourist also makes a stop at Park Güell.