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Park Guell

An urban park on Carrer d'Olot standing on the Muntanya Pelada to the north of the Barcelona district of Gràcia, Gaudí planned and directed the construction of the park from 1900 to 1914 for Eusebi Güell as infrastructure and facilities for a residential garden city based on English models. It was intended for sixty single-family residences. The project, however, was unsuccessful and the park became city property in 1923. Still, it is one of Gaudí's most colorful and playful works even though it was never fully completed.

Two pavilions at the main entrance complete the wall surrounding the park. Intended as a porter's lodge and administrative building, these pavilions are of stone with roofs of Catalan vaults of flat-laid brick finished with pieces of broken ceramic called trencadís. The ceramic trencadís follows the sinuous geometric surfaces, a device which gives all of the park's ornamentation a unique beauty. Each of the roofs is crowned by a small dome and above all stands a tall, spiral-shaped towed adorned with colorful tile and topped with Gaudí's characteristic four-branched cross.

A grand stairway divided by a mythological dragon or lizard (which also serves as an overflow for the cistern) leads to the large hypostyle hall destined as the housing development's market place. The dragon is the oft-photographed symbol of the park to its visitors who after taking their snapshots, proceed up the stairway to the hall where sometimes a musician will be playing a guitar, flute, or violin. The hall is built with 84 columns of Doric inspiration supporting quarter-sphere domes. These in turn support the great upper plaza, a fine balcony overlooking the city and the sea. The large plaza is delimited by an extraordinary balustrade-bench that twists in serpentine manner to form winding courses, recesses, and small semi-enclosed areas where the facing of brightly colored trencadís creates a spectacular collage of color and texture. For the creation of this winding bench and the beautiful keystones of the hypostyle market place, Gaudí had the collaboration of the architect Josep M. Jujol.

Another feature is the large cistern for collecting rain water from the plaza by way of the columns. The cistern lies beneath the hypostyle, a place of great plastic beauty. Also noteworthy are the viaducts which support the roads for vehicular traffic with retaining walls and robust inclined pillars which form elegant arches faced with rough-hewn stone. The park extends considerably beyond these structures covering the hill with stepped pedestrian paths and gardens amid the lush foliage. Near the base, however, stands the house which Gaudí had built for his own use in the park, the work of his disciple Francesc Berenguer (1905). The house has since been converted into the Casa-Museu Gaudí. The museum has notable examples of furnishings designed by Gaudí as well as personal memorabilia. Güell Park was declared a place of World Heritage by UNESCO in 1984.

Text kindly provided by Jonathan D. Meltzer from his excellent Gaudi Central website.

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