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Park Güell: the work of a genius

Park Güell: the work of a genius
When the construction of Park Güell began in 1900, Barcelona was a modern and cosmopolitan metropolis, with an economy based on the power of industry and a population that exceeded half a million inhabitants. Its wall had been demolished nearly half a century earlier, and the new city had grown spectacularly from 1860.

The expansion of Barcelona was very rapid throughout the second half of the 19thcentury. The Universal Exhibition of 1888 revealed to Europe the thrust of Barcelona, an industrial metropolis that was very socially conflictive, but highly dynamic artistically. It was amidst that atmosphere that there flowered a quest for a new artistic idiom and language of urban representation. That was the reason for the success of modernism and of the work of such a singular architect as Antoní Gaudi.

Do you know… Trincadís is a decorative system much loved by Gaudí and consisting in cladding surfaces with small pieces of broken tiles, often taken from demolition materials and disused objects

Eusebi Güell entrusted to Gaudi the plan to create an estate for well-off families in a large property that Güell had acquired in the zone known popularly as the Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain).Gaudi and Güell both had a solid humanistic background and deep religious convictions, and shared a deep-rooted Catalanist patriotism. The two man thoroughly the planning aspects of the future residential complex and its iconographic components. Güell wanted to recreate the selective British residential estates, and that was why he used the English form “Park” in the name of Park Güell.

A large number of interpretations have been made of the symbolic universe of Park Güell and its relationship with classical Greece, the Christian tradition and the Catalonia. The flight of steps is full of details. Firstly, we can find capricious shapes, like gargoyles, reminiscence of grottos that were discovered in making the state. A little higher, visitors are surprised by the sculptural features clad with tile-shard mosaic. First, there is a fountain in the form of a snake’s head above the shield of Catalonia. Then comes a very brightly coloured dragon, or salamander. At the upper part there is a tripod that appears to be formed by three snakes, in front of a circular bench that offers a fine perspective of the whole.

Gaudí solved the dialogue between architecture and nature in a dramatic and exceptional manner by increasing the tension between the two principles. His mastery of the most diverse structures and materials allows him to invert a unique world that is at the same time foo of symbolic references.

The building work on Park Güell progressed at a good rate in the first years of the century, although the conditions of acquisition of the plots, the executive nature of the estate and the lack of proper transport made the project unviable. Eusebi chose to halt the work in 1914, but upon death of him, it was offered to Barcelona City Council, which decided to acquire it in 1922. It is currently a much treasured leisure area for the people of Barcelona and a pole of attraction for visitors from all around the world.

Park Güell is one of the most notable expressions of the wish for representation and capital-city aspirations of the industrial elites of Barcelona at the dawn of the 20th century. It was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1984 by The UNESCO.

Sources: Park Güell, Barcelona City Tours