Chronicles of a writer abroad

Barcelona Part II: A stroll through Parc Güell


It’s possible that Parc Güell was my favourite sight on our Barcelona trip.

Imagine: a vast green space, overlooking the city and studded with architectural delights like painstakingly-made and beautiful-to-behold tiled benches…

Gingerbread houses…

Wacky tunnels…

And space to be outdoors yet sheltered from the elements.

Parc Güell was built in the early 1900s, and as the name implies, it was another project commissioned by Gaudi’s patron Count. Güell’s vision for this project was that it would form a self-contained community — the covered hall above would serve as the marketplace, homes would be built, and there would be space for gardening and, of course, socializing on that great terrace where the benches are. It would have been a great place to live — the park is perched above the city, and thus benefits from fresh air and breezes — but though Güell himself moved into the park, there was lack of buyer interest in the other “show houses” built on the site — Gaudi eventually decided to buy one of them when it seemed that the community idea wasn’t going to pan out. According to a great anecdote that I stumbled across in my research, the park’s lack of success led Gaudi to remark to Güell: “Sometimes I think we are the only people who like this architecture.” To which Güell replied, “I don’t like your architecture, I respect it.”

Hmm…I’m not sure how I would feel if someone said that to me as a writer. Perhaps something was lost in translation here. In any event, it’s true that in his time, Gaudi’s works were not widely embraced and were, in fact, controversial due to their playful quality and their strangeness. Today, however, Barcelona positively flaunts them, they are UNESCO world heritage sites, and they are mobbed by tourists, even on rainy days in the winter (such as the one we chose to visit the park). But it’s worth noting that Count Güell, who with his bags of money could have lived anywhere he wanted, stayed in his house in the park until he died in 1918. Gaudi, too, stayed until his death 8 years later. It’s nice to think that at least the two men who dreamed up this beautiful place were able to enjoy it, even if they didn’t get to see all the hopes they poured into it come to fruition.

I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to get a picture of the park's iconic salamander fountain without other tourists in it.

The house in the park where Gaudi lived from 1906 to 1926.


5 thoughts on “Barcelona Part II: A stroll through Parc Güell

  1. I love, love, love that gingerbread house. What great spaces these are for people to hang out and relish the beauty that this beauty-starved Canadian appreciates so much! The salamander is wonderful too.

  2. This guy is all about texture. Everything’s bumpy and tactile, even his swoopy benches. But that gingerbread house… it looks too fantastical even for a movie set. Lovely in a cozy, Dr. Seuss way.

  3. Great photos!! I think you are smart to have gone in the off-season. I was in Barcelona in July 2004 and Parc Guell in particular was jam-packed with tourists 🙂 I loved seeing the salamander again–I don’t think I managed to capture any pictures of him on my trip.

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