Park Güell

Antonio Gaudí's masterpiece of public space. I can honestly say that we had never visited a park like this before.

As you can see, there were tiled mosaics everywhere. But even structural elements that are meant to look like stone are disguised with countless stone-colored pieces. The park is fairly large, but the visitor spends much of the visit in human-scaled, even intimate, spaces.

The entrance to the park is marked with two of buildings that remain real Gaudi icons. Their visual impact is significant, especially as markers of the park entrance, and they make you wonder what the neighborhood might have looked like had more houses been built here.

At the heart of the park was a large open surface hemmed in by gorgeously tiled serpentine benches. It would have been great to sit here and read a book for a few hours, but that is a luxury that will have to wait. This space can host hundreds of visitors without feeling crowded. It looks like a single visitor could walk through the space alone and feel incredibly comfortable, too.

Directly beneath the large plateau is a columned space with vaulted ceilings. The engineering, which Gaudi seemlessly integrated into the visual elements of the park, is elegently hidden in plain view with these coumns supporting the weight of that plaza space while creating a cool but airy room for visitors to explore. The ceilings have some great tile feature. The outside columns were angled in a way that subtly resembled flying butresses.

The spine of the park is formed by line of elements, framed by stairs, proceeding down the hill from the large plateau to the gates of the park.At the top, just below the colunms, is an alcove that serves as a popular bench - so popular that we never got to sit in it. in front of the bench is a tiled sculpture that wraps around a lion's head. Just below that is the fountain which features the signature dragon that Dylan insisted was more of a salamander (who can argue?). Below the salamander dragon was a another water feature that was more grotto-like. This entry sequence --climbing from the front gate, past the fountains, around the columns and up to the plateau -- is such a manipulative experience yet it feels very free, perhaps because the land area covered is so small compared to the rest of the park.

The rest of the park allows exploration of this hill through relatively undeveloped trails and highly contructed and shaped paths, with carefully considered vistas and surprises providing enticement along the way. Throughout the park are elements and surfaces celebrating different materials and images of the region. Even the plantings contribute to the feeling that this is a real slice of Barcelona and celebratory place.

A great park can handle some weirdness.

At the park's highest point Gaudí built a stone hill crowned with three crosses. From this peak you can see across Barcelona and out to the Mediteranean. It also stands as yet another tribute to his faith, which was mentioned at almost every one of his works that we visited.

Park Güell is seriously considered one of the greatest public parks and greatest examples of landscape architecture in the world. As someone who considers the design of public spaces and places to be one of the really special forms of public service, that places Park Güell in the shortlist of human accomplishments. Not bad for a project that was never finished.
Here are some models of the park and the columns and vaulted ceiling. The wooden model sows the central stairway that includes the famous Dragon, and bench alcove.

Wikipedia on Park Güell

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