Like many other world famous monuments of Antoni Gaudi, Park Guell is very much a one of a kind structure. Designed by Gaudi and built between 1900 and 1914, it is the largest architectural work in Europe as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Count Eusebi Guell, after whom the park came to be named, originally planned Park Guell to be a housing project – an estate for wealthy families. He was greatly insipired by the English garden city movement that called for urban oases in industrial areas to provide city residents with respite from polluted air and dirty city landscapes – in fact, so inspired was Guell by this movement that he eventually gave the estate an English name: Park Guell. Guell originally intended for the park to be home to sixty triangular lots of luxury houses, wishing to exploit the majestic hillside views and fresh air of the Muntanya Pelada (or “Bare Mountain). After no buyers came forward after the completion of the first house, later called “la Torre Rosa” (originally designed by Francesc Berenguer) in 1904, Gaudi was persuaded by Guell to purchase the house himself. Gaudi and his family lived in this house, now known as the Gaudi House Museum, from 1906-1926.
Guell decided that the plants naturally growing on the Muntanya Pelada should not be uprooted, and instead made sure other low-maintenance Mediterranean vegetation should be planted with various systems designed to capture and store water based on the irrigation systems he had grown up with as a child. These measures have prevented large-scale erosion of the land that often is an inevitable result of Mediterranean downpours.
The area surrounding Gaudi’s house was eventually converted into a large municipal garden. After the failure of the estate as a housing project, Guell opened the park, now his own private garden, to public events. Soon the park became a major city attraction. After Guell’s death in 1918, his family offered the park to the City Council, who happily purchased in in 1926.
In 1969 the park was recognized as an artistic monument, and in 1984 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By this time, the park was both a local and tourist favourite. Much like all of Gaudi’s other structures, Park Guell today is a symbol of the unique culture of Catalonia and Catalan nationalism. The main focal points of the park include the porter’s lodge pavilions, the Dragon Stairway, the Hypostyle Room, the Greek Theatre, the Laundry Room Portico, the Austria Gardens, and the many roadways, paths and viaducts found in the park. On a sunny summery day, there is no activity more enjoyable then a stroll through the shade of the trees of the magnificent Park Guell.