South by Southeast travel blog

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell marketplace

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Hospital San Pau

Hospital San Pau

Hospital San Pau

harbor

harbor

harbor

beach


It's hard to believe, but one of the biggest tourist attractions here is a failed housing division that only has three houses in it. The architect Antonin Gaudí whose masterpiece church we visited yesterday, was fortunate to find a wealthy patron named Eusebi Güell, who said, "I have no idea what your work means, but I know that it's special." Güell had a huge fortune inherited from his father and brought into the marriage from his wife, so he paid Gaudí a salary for his entire life and let him do whatever struck his fancy. Our word "gaudy" comes from his name. His work had mixed reviews. His frequent use of colorful broken tiles, made critiques say that he was simply recycling garbage. Gaudí decided to build a subdivision of exclusive homes on the top of a mountain just outside town. It's appeal was that it was a bit cooler in the summer than the city center.

In 1900, Count Eusebi Guell commissioned modernist architect Antoni Gaudi to design this luxury housing community featuring organic designs that would blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch. Roadways around the park to service the intended houses were designed by Gaudí as structures jutting out from the steep hillside or running on viaducts, with separate footpaths in arcades formed under these structures. This minimized the intrusion of the roads, and Gaudí designed them using local stone in a way that integrates them closely into the landscape. His structures echo natural forms, with columns like tree trunks supporting branching vaulting under the roadway. It was not clear why this housing park never took off, but it was far out of town for the time. The idea was abandoned fourteen years later, but not before Gaudí had completed two Hansel-and-Gretel gatehouses and a series of fantastical roads, walks, and steps that appear to have been plucked from a fairytale. We enjoyed seeing it, but the place was overrun with tourists. Today on a Monday all the museums are closed, so that may have added to the tumult.

Next we visited a quieter spot, a magnificent looking public hospital that had been built at about the same time for the poor of the city. The theory was that your physical health can be influenced by your surroundings and a beautiful place would enhance healing. The hospital was situated on the site so that sunshine could enter the windows all day long; sunshine was part of the therapy. We stopped to photograph the front, but as we drove around the site we could see building after building decorated in this luxurious style. It must have had the capacity for thousands of patients.

Our lunch stop was in the harbor, which has been totally renovated for the 1992 Olympics. It made us think of Navy Pier in Chicago on steroids. There were so many interesting places to eat that we could hardly decide. We walked a bit of the boardwalk and admired the multitudes of boats. Hopefully, there will be time to come back and see more on our own.

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