Parc Guell is one of Antonio Gaudí’s most iconic works. He designed and built the 12-hectare landmark just before the outbreak of World War One, and it officially opened as a public park in 1926. A designated Unesco World Heritage Site since 1984, more than 12 million tourists visit Park Guell annually. Eusebi Güell, Gaudí’s close friend and patron, commissioned him to design the park. He’d long been a fan of Gaudí, ever since he saw his charming window display for glove retailer Esteve Comella at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. Since then, he’d commissioned him to make furniture, design his new house the Palau Guell in Nou de la Rambla street, a winery and a church – but Parc Guell was the biggest project yet. Interested in finding out more about this supermodel good-looking landmark? Here are seven interesting facts about Parc Guell you might not know.
Interesting Facts About Parc Guell
1. It was a failed housing project
When Gaudi originally set about designing and building Parc Guell, he didn’t intend it to become a public park. Instead, he and land owned Eusebi Guell planned to build a modern housing estate with all the latest modern conveniences, like running water and heating. The location was unrivalled too, high above the chaotic Catalan capital with views over the sea and the Plain of Barcelona.
The pair secured permission to build 60 triangular-shaped plots on the estate, connected via paths, steps and viaducts. It was a complicated project, not least because they could only build on one-sixth of the land. They built a show home to attract investment but the complex conditions for sale plots, lease contracts and the lack of transport made it an unviable investment. Gaudi was forced to abandon the project in 1914 when Guell died. In 1926, the City of Barcelona purchased the land and transformed the area into a public park.
2. It took 4 years to build it
Eusebi Guell commissioned Gaudí to draw up plans for developing an estate for well-off families on the mountain in 1900. By 1903, he had constructed the two entrance pavilions, the steps, the viaducts, the outer enclosure and part of the great esplanade. Lawyer, Martí Trias I Domènech, a friend of Güell, was the first person to buy a plot of land in the park. He commissioned architect Juli Batllevell to build his villa.
Even during Guell’s lifetime, Parc Guell was one of Barcelona’s greatest tourist attractions. The large square was often let for staging Catalanist events, traditional Catalan Sardana dancing and other civic and social events.
3. It’s inspired by nature
Güell wanted to create a space inspired by the British residential gardens of the early 19th century, which is why he named it Park Guell, in English. Gaudi was obsessed with nature, and ensure that his designs incorporated the natural environment. He kept the original vegetation, such as carob and olive trees, already going on the land and only chose Meditteranean plants to supplement these. He designed systems for storing and collecting water based on the irrigation systems of his rural childhood too. When it came to the buildings, he created columns inspired by the shape and structure of the surrounding trees too.
That’s why there aren’t any straight lines on the property either, since there are no straight lines in nature. Instead, he used curves, slanted lines and scalloped edges.
4. Gaudi lived here
He bought the model house in 1906 and lived here with his father and niece until he died when he was hit by a tram. This meant he could supervise the construction work at the same time too. His home is now the Gaudi House Museum, complete with furniture he designed and other items he once used. Interestingly, Gaudi didn’t actually design this house. Francesc Berenguer, a Catalan architect, designed the house but Gaudi signed the plans since Berenquere wasn’t yet a qualified architect.
Shortly after Gaudi moved in, Güell converted the existing mansion, Casa Larrad, into his home. It’s now a very lovely school.
5. The Hypostyle Room originally had a different purpose
One of the most imposing features in the Monumental Zone of the park is the Hypostyle Room. This was actually designed to be a market for the residents. The room is inspired by Roman temples, with 86 winding columns and an undulating bench. Inside, the conduit collects rainwater that filters from the square and sends it to the underground tank, which has a dragon’s mouth as its overflow. Josep M. Jujol, one of Gaudi’s assistants, designed the tile-shard mosaics on the ceiling.
6. It’s where he pioneered his trencadís technique
The most photographed feature in the whole park is the colourful trencadís salamander. The created guards the staircase to the monumental zone. This is where Gaudí first tested out the mosaic technique that he’d become so famous for, the trencadís. In Catalan trencadís means ‘chopped’, since the technique involves chopping up lots of ceramics into tiny pieces and cementing them back together.
7. You can visit most of it for free
Millions visit the park every year, but around 95% of the area is accessible free of charge. The only area that isn’t is the monumental zone, which includes the entrance (with the famous dragon), the beautiful curved bench and the market hall. If you’d like to explore this zone, make sure you book a ticket – only 400 visitors are allowed inside every half an hour.