Gaudi began work on his stunning masterpiece in 1900 when Barcelona was a thriving and thoroughly modern metropolis at the forefront of the modernist movement. Entrepreneur, Eusebi Guell, had been commissioning Gaudi’s works for some time, and Park Guell was a culmination of many years of partnership and friendship between the two men.
The history of the park
Gaudi had to abandon the project in 1914 because of financial problems, and the council bought it in 1918. In 1923, three years before Gaudi died, the park became a public space.
The park’s design
The plan was to recreate a British residential park, but Gaudi respected the native plant species and chose others that needed little watering. His clever designs prevent the land from eroding during heavy rainfall and feature water storage and irrigation systems that Gaudi had learned in his rural upbringing.
The dragon stairway
The dragon stairway is an iconic Barcelona landmark, but in real life the stairway is even more beautiful. The vast, marble steps lead from the main entrance up to two grottos. Little creatures greet you on your way up the stairs and the dragon awaits halfway up.
The Hypostyle Room
Designed as the estate’s market, the Hypostyle Room, or the Room of a Hundred Columns, is held up by 86 fluted Doric columns. Setting themselves apart from classical tradition, the outer columns slope, giving the effect of movement. The intricately mosaiced ceilings represent Gaudi’s absolute attention to detail and the four medallions show a different sun for each season of the year.
In the centre of the Monumental Core, part balancing on top of the Hypostyle Room and part dug into the rock, Nature Square was designed as a Greek-style theatre. Wave-like serpentine mosaic benches run along the outside of the square and it is sometimes still used for events.
The Portico of the Washerwomen
An iron gate in Nature Square leads to the Portico of the washerwomen, so named because of a sculpture of a washerwoman who stands between slanting columns which organically sprout out of the rock face. At the end of the portico is a spiral ramp which leads to the house.
The Austria Gardens
Designed as a residential plot, the area now known as the Austria Gardens was subsequently used as a plant nursery. In 1977, Austria donated many of the trees planted there, and from here you can see the two homes that Gaudi built, one of which is now the Gaudi House Museum.