Park Güell is one of Barcelon'a favorite tourist sites, but it is frequently hard to find tickets if you want them right away. The official website usually proclaims "tickets sold out for today." Only four hour hundred people are allowed into the park per half hour.
We bought tickets the day before we went from a travel agency. It was a little more expensive, but worth having the guided tour. Before seeing Sagrada Família, Melanie want to know something about Antoni Gaudí, the church's principal architect, who was also one of the architects of Park Güell.
"I left the park with a better appreciation for the work of Gaudí," she said. "It helped me understand Gaudí better." Although his work may seem strange because it is a combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau, she could see it in his major guiding themes of love of God, family, and nature.
Origins of Park Güell
Park Güell's construction in 1900 coincided with Barcelona's evolution into a thriving metropolis, driven by industry and boasting over half a million residents. The city had dismantled its walls almost 50 years prior, paving the way for the innovative Eixample, a project spearheaded by engineer Ildefons Cerdà. Cerdà's comprehensive analysis of Barcelona's growth challenges, influenced by technological advancements like the railway, led to the expansive Pla d’Eixample proposal, which increased the city's expanse tenfold. His forward-thinking approach aimed to create a more efficient, healthier, and fairer modern city.
Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Barcelona underwent rapid expansion, with the Eixample area emerging as a prominent bourgeois hub. Simultaneously, development extended into the old manufacturing regions, characterized by a more industrial and populist nature.
The 1888 Universal Exhibition showcased Barcelona's vitality to Europe and the world, highlighting the city as the focal point of a resurging Catalan nation. This event fueled a quest for a new urban artistic expression, giving rise to the prominent Modernisme movement, notably embodied in the heart of the Eixample and exemplified in the distinctive architecture of Antoni Gaudí.
Modernisme and Catalan Culture
The Modernisme movement, akin to other movements like Sezession, Liberty, Jugendstil, or art nouveau elsewhere, differed in its ambition. It wasn't solely focused on aesthetic revitalization; it was a manifestation of Catalonia's yearning for modernization and cultural revival, fueled by Barcelona's dynamism. This broader ambition led Modernisme beyond architecture and visual arts, influencing language, literature, and music as well.
While art nouveau, in its various forms, aimed to establish an international architectural style reflecting the cosmopolitan culture of the fin de siècle, the Catalan movement aimed for a different goal: a fresh blend of tradition and the most revolutionary modern concepts.
In Catalonia, the cosmopolitan essence of art nouveau transformed into a broader aspiration for modernity, rooted in the ambition to propel the country forward while deeply embracing its cultural heritage.
Modernisme in Barcelona
From the 1860s, the development of the Eixample area in Barcelona provided architects with diverse opportunities for creative expression, contributing to the city acquiring one of the most extensive and varied architectural repertoires in Europe. The initial ventures into Modernisme emerged within this broad landscape of historicist and eclectic architecture towards the end of the century.
During the emergence of art nouveau in cities like Brussels and Glasgow, when historicist and eclectic architectural styles dominated Europe, Barcelona was embarking on a uniquely original path. Following the 1888 Exhibition, forward-thinking architects began to reintroduce traditional construction methods such as the Catalan vault and ancient artisanal styles while exploring the expressive capabilities of iron. Esteemed architects like Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and Josep Puig i Cadafalch launched their careers within this milieu.
As art nouveau gained recognition at the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris, emphasizing nature-inspired forms both structurally and ornamentally, Barcelona became an ideal environment for such ideas. A cluster of architects, including Enric Sagnier and Jeroni Granell i Manresa, incorporated naturalist elements, largely within the eclectic architectural sphere. In contrast, the prominent figures of Modernisme, like Domènech i Montaner and Gaudí, took a more profound approach to interpreting art nouveau, seeking a balance between modernity and tradition, resulting in their distinctive architectural styles.
Güell and Gaudí
The collaboration between entrepreneur Eusebi Güell and architect Antoni Gaudí commenced when Güell encountered a window exhibit designed by Gaudí for glove merchant Esteve Comella at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris. In that same year, Güell engaged Gaudí to create furnishings for the pantheon chapel at the Palacio de Sobrellano in Comillas, a town along the Cantabrian coast, intended for his affluent father-in-law, Antonio López y López. The architect behind this impressive neo-gothic chapel was Joan Martorell i Montells, where Gaudí had previously worked in Martorell's studio.
Several years later, Martorell entrusted Gaudí with another project, further solidifying the partnership between the two architects. This time, it involved designing the porter's gatehouse and stables for Finca Güell (1883-1887), a property owned by the Barcelona businessman in Les Corts, situated to the west of Barcelona.
The creation of Park Güell
Martorell, a highly esteemed architect at that time and someone Gaudí always regarded as his mentor, wielded significant influence over Gaudí's future body of work.
In 1886, Eusebi Güell assigned Gaudí the task of constructing his new residence, the Palau Güell, situated on Nou de la Rambla street in the city's historic district. Subsequently, in 1895, Gaudí collaborated with Francesc Berenguer to build a winery in Garraf county. In 1898, he conceived the design for the church in Colònia Güell, which housed the workers from the substantial textile factory owned by the industrialist on the outskirts of Barcelona. Finally, in 1900, Gaudí received the commission to create Park Güell.
Güell possessed a unique understanding of the significance behind Gaudí's architectural vision. Their connection went beyond that of an artist and patron; it was a genuine tale of friendship. For a considerable period, the Güell family resided in the expansive family estate (now a school) situated on the land where the project was developed, while Gaudí himself lived in one of the two houses constructed there.
Even during the businessman's lifetime, the park held the distinction of being one of Barcelona's foremost tourist attractions. The expansive square within was frequently utilized for hosting Catalanist events, traditional Catalan sardana dancing, and various civic and social gatherings.
Source: Official Website for Park Güell, Photos by Melanie Fisher