Monday, August 10, 2015

A Gaudi day -- Park Güell

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a renowned Spanish Catalan architect.  He was born in 1852 and died in 1926.  He had a unique interpretation of architecture and implemented construction techniques previously undreamed.  Such as the increased strength of twisting geometric shapes for architecture.  He was both an architect in the visual sense but also more of a construction engineer for the building details.  His designs were radically different from anything else during his lifetime.  This should not be taken as a criticism, but after viewing some of his architectural works we think possibly the word gaudy derived from Gaudi.

After our trip to Madrid we were up early for a full day of gaudy Gaudí.

As always, click on any image for larger view.

Judy, Elisabeth and Bill in front of Monumental Steps
Hailed the required 2 taxis just outside the marina and arrived at Park Güell at 08:30. Our tickets were for 09:00 admission.  Park Güell is one of many major tourist attractions in Barcelona.  It is strongly advised to purchase advance tickets online.  Only 400 visitors are allowed entrance every 30 minutes as an effort to keep the park experience enjoyable and not too crowded.  The attendant allowed us to enter 10 minutes prior to our ticketed entrance time.  We did not realize until later what an advantage that 10 minutes provided us.  Because the crowds started arriving shortly after we began strolling the park and we remained ahead of most of them for the hours of our visit.

The west pavilion of the Porter's Lodge

A brief primer about Park Güell is that it was formed with the joining of 2 areas, the 'Can Muntaner de Dalt' and 'Can Coll i Pujol', in the Muntanya a Pelada purchased by Count Güell in 1899.  Gaudi conceived it as a religious sense, at the same time both organic and urban.  And using the 200-ft gap in the mountain to project a path of spiritual elevation. Gaudi's plans placed a chapel at the top of the mountain but that was never built.  Instead, today at that spot sits the monument to Calvary, entitled Turo de les tres crues.  The park originally was intended to be an upper-class residential area with working-class houses at the fringes.  But it never became popular because of the lack of easy transportation from high on the mountain down to the main city of Barcelona at sea level.  This resulted in the area being designated as a park rather than as a residential area.

More information can be read here:

The eastern pavilion of the Porter's Lodge

At this point I should point out that the Catalan language is very different from Spanish.  Our daughter-in-law, Lynn, is fluent in Spanish; it was her first language until she started elementary school and learned English.  Yet she cannot understand Catalan.  Some of the words are the same as in Spanish but many words are totally different.  Barcelona is in the Catalonia region of Spain and Catalan is the language most often spoken.  We have noticed numerous banners and signs in parts of the city which read (translated):  Independence is justice.  Catalonia, or Catalunya, has striven for independence from Spain for centuries and it appears that movement still lives.  Catalans have instituted separate taxation upon their region in order to build infrastructure that does not exist in the rest of Spain.  I wonder if the separatists will ever win their cause.

A most unusual park
The first building encountered inside Park Güell is called the Porter's Lodge.  The Porter's Lodge consists of 2 buildings.  It was built between 1901 and 1903 and currently is part of the Barcelona History Museum.  It is an example of what Gaudi envisioned as a modest dwelling, practical and simple but with a formal richness and makes use of the Catalan vault style of construction.  Lynn, Elisabeth and Damien toured the interior of the Porter's Lodge while we waited outside with Rose in her stroller.  The Lodge had many stairways and was not designed for infant strollers.  It reminded me of something out of a child's storybook.

Looking down the Monumental Steps

Next we turned left up what is called the Monumental Flight of Steps, a double flight of steps to the Hypostyle Room or Columns Room.  Beneath the floor of this large room is a enormous tank that holds the water for sprinkling the plants and trees in the park.  The water tank is fed by springs that feed into a central axis to the tank.

Bill in the Hypostyle Room or Columns Room

In the center of the double flight of steps about 2/3 way up there is a fountain in the form of a snake's head above the shield of Catalonia.  Then comes a very brightly colored dragon or salamander.  At the upper part there is a tripod that appears to be formed by 3 snakes in front of a circular bench.  

Small section of ceiling of Columns Room
Shows Trencadis--a decorative system much loved by
Gaudi cladding surfaces with tiny shard mosaics

Up another small section of steps brings one into the Hypostyle Room, an open-sided 'room' with 86 striated columns inspired in the Doric order.  The ceiling has many small vaulted areas filled with the tile-shard mosaics favored in Catalan style.  The fountain between the flights of steps also is covered in the same style of tile-shard mosaics.

Elisabeth, Rose, Lynn and Damien in Columns Room

View from the 'roof' of the Hypostyle Room

Garden paths led off to the right side of the Hypostyle Room and then up to a higher level.  The bare dirt flat area in the center of the upper level is the 'roof' of the Hypostyle Room.  This area provides great views of the city of Barcelona below.  There are 2 entrances/exits up at this level where one can visit the large nature park high above Park Güell.  However, if one exits to visit the nature park then one cannot come back inside Park Güell.  So we did not walk that area.  

Steps going up the eastern side of Hypostyle Room

One thing of interest up there is the Austria Gardens, one of the zones of the residential estate that was meant to be divided into plots for houses.  There are only 2 houses built while this was a residential estate.  The Casa Trias is a white house high on the mountainside that looks like an Austrian villa.  

Aaron and Bill playing with their phones
while waiting for the rest of us.  They spent a
lot of time doing this all day.

Damien (im)patiently waiting for us.  It is hard to be
6 yrs old and have to wait on the old folks.

The other house that was built on this site was the pink show-home for the project.  Antoni Gaudí lived in the pink show-home until shortly before his death.  Today it is the Gaudí House Museum.  Our park ticket did not allow entrance to this museum.  As crazy as it sounds, one must buy a combination ticket to the Sagrada Familia in order to visit the Gaudí House Museum -- 2 sites that are miles apart from one another.  The park tickets allow admittance only to what is called the Monumental Zone.

Portico of the Washerwoman

On the western lower side of the Hypostyle Room is a long area called the Portico of the Washerwoman.  It serves as a retaining wall of the upper roadway.  It is constructed of unhewn stone and adopts the profile of a huge weave.  To its exterior is a whole series of buttresses, one of which depicts a rough caryatid known as the Washerwoman because it shows a woman with the tools of that trade of years past.  (A caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support.) These unhewn stones appear to be haphazard until one looks closely to see the intricate designs hidden among the stones.
Our photos did not do justice for these.

Looking down inside Portico of the Washerwoman.
Easy to see from this view that it is a retaining wall.

Each column of the Portico of the
Washerwoman had great detail in
the unhewn stone.

View of the nature park above the area we visited.

Elisabeth and Lynn beneath lower
level of the helicoidal columns

After the long portico is a spiral ramp with helicoidal columns creating a dual height structure merging upper and lower balconies.  Situated below is the Casa Larrard which Gaudí retouched only a little to make it into a residence for Eusebi Güell and his family.  In 1931, by which time the park was public, this building was transformed into the municipal school called the Baldiri Reixac.  I could find no information as to whether this school is still in use today or not, but it appeared to be well maintained.
Another view of the helicoidal columns

Elisabeth, Damien, Lynn and baby Rose
strolling (literally) through the park

This brought our circle of this park to a close.  The park online site had advised to allow 3 hours to view the park but we finished in less than 2 hours.  We had tickets for the Sagrada Familia cathedral but now had a few hours of extra time, so we wandered down to another area of the public park and let the grandkids enjoy a playground until it was time to find taxis for the cathedral.

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