Antoni Gaudí’s Outdoor Wonderland: Park Güell
Like every project world renowned architect Antoni Gaudí designed, Park Güell is anything but an ordinary public space. Nature is enhanced by architecture that puts a spotlight on its beauty. With bold designs fantastical structures, and splashes of color Gaudí has created one of the great outdoor spaces in the world with Park Güell
The park was commissioned by wealthy entrepreneur Eusebi Güell. The two had worked together in the past and Park Güell was their most ambitious project to date. The park was only a part of the overall project designed to be a mini community within the city of Barcelona. The park would be the social center of a housing development with up to 60 houses planned. Residents would congregate in the park anchored by an open air market.
Construction began in 1900. By 1914, the park was complete, but the housing portion of the project was deemed a failure and eventually abandoned. Of the planned 60 housing plots, only two houses were built. It’s perfect view high above Barcelona proved difficult from a logistical standpoint as a lack of transportation to reach the site made it undesirable for potential buyers.
Güell allowing the park to be used for public events and upon his death in 1918, the city bought the land. It was opened as a public park in 1926, and quickly became a popular tourist attraction. Gaudís house was converted to a museum in 1963. In 1984, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main entrance is flanked by two fanciful structures meant to be a porters lodge. Straight ahead is a grand staircase called the dragon stairway for the mosaic dragon and fountain in the center. At the top of the stairway is the entrance to the planned market. The roof of the market serves as a large esplanade called the Greek Theater or Nature Square. The wide open space produces a commanding view of Barcelona and no doubt a reason why the site was chosen for this development. From here you can see Gaudís most famous work La Sagrada Familia as well as the beach and Montjuïc.
To one side is known as the Austria Gardens which was designed to be one of the housing developments. This is where the only two houses that were built are located, including the Gaudí museum. The rest of the garden area is full full of plant life instead of houses.
Constructed on a slope, the park is built on multiple levels with paths winding all around on gentle slopes. In typical Gaudí fashion the supports and paths are full of lavish touches. Exquisite stone work turns these functional supports into art.
Like much of Gaudís work the park celebrates nature. Gaudí was a very religious man honoring nature was his way of honoring God. Columns resemble tree trunks. An Arcade serves a purpose as a retaining wall but does so in the form a crashing wave that a surfer would dream of riding. Pathways are lined by stone pillars which are large planters with vegetation bursting out of the tops. You are constantly reminded through architecture that you are enjoying nature.
While you will no doubt see many Gaudí structures around Barcelona, Park Güell provides his unique take on an outside space. Gaudí’s other works are buildings. Meticulously designed to to be beautiful and functional, it excels at both. Although the housing deployment portion of the project ultimately failed, the park serves as an excellent example of a public space that enhances your experience instead of simply existing. Park Güell is Gaudí at his best.
Visting Park Güell
A portion of the park is free and open to the public. The architectural parts of the park do require paid admission to enter in what is called the monumental zone. Within the monumental zone you can purchase an additional ticket that provides access the Gaudí museum. Park Güell is a very popular tourist attraction and like many Barcelona tourist hot spots, it is highly recommended you purchase tickets online in advance. Each ticket includes a timed entry. If you arrive without a timed ticket during the tourist season expect to wait at least an hour for entry.
Park Güell is located in a northern part of Barcelona, called the Gràcia district. The nearest Metro station is Lessups on the Green L3 line. From the station it is about a 20 minute walk uphill. Bus lines H6, 32, 24 and 92 stop on Travessera de Dalt and will be a 10 minute walk uphill. Taking a tax will eliminate the walk and drop you off right outside the entrance. Park Güell is open daily.