Park Guell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gracia district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It has an extension of 17.18 ha (0.1718 km2), which makes it one of the largest architectural works in south Europe. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudi".
Origins as a housing development
The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Guell, after whom the park was named. It was inspired by the English garden city movement; hence the original English name Park (in the Catalan language spoken in Catalonia where Barcelona is located, the word for "Park" is "Parc", and the name of the place is "Parc Guell" in its original language). The site was a rocky hill with little vegetation and few trees, called Muntanya Pelada (Bare Mountain). It already included a large country house called Larrard House or Muntaner de Dalt House, and was next to a neighborhood of upper class houses called La Salut (The Health). The intention was to exploit the fresh air (well away from smoky factories) and beautiful views from the site, with sixty triangular lots being provided for luxury houses. Count Eusebi Guell added to the prestige of the development by moving in 1906 to live in Larrard House. Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudi. One was intended to be a show house, but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward, Gaudi, at Guell's suggestion, bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906. This house, where Gaudi lived from 1906 to 1926, was built by Francesc Berenguer in 1904. It contains original works by Gaudi and several of his collaborators. It is now the Gaudi House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudi) since 1963. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.
It has since been converted into a municipal garden. It can be reached by underground railway (although the stations are at a distance from the Park and at a much lower level below the hill), by city buses, or by commercial tourist buses. While entrance to the Park is free, Gaudi's house, "la Torre Rosa," - containing furniture that he designed - can be only visited for an entrance fee. There is a reduced rate for those wishing to see both Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia Church.Park Guell is skillfully designed and composed to bring the peace and calm that one would expect from a park. The buildings flanking the entrance, though very original and remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles, fit in well with the use of the park as pleasure gardens and seem relatively inconspicuous in the landscape when one considers the flamboyance of other buildings designed by Gaudi.The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere. Gaudi incorporated many motifs of Catalan nationalism, and elements from religious mysticism and ancient poetry, into the Park.Roadways around the park to service the intended houses were designed by Gaudi 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 Gaudi 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, and the curves of vaulting and alignment of sloping columns designed in a similar way to his Church of Colonia Guell so that the inverted catenary arch shapes form perfect compression structures.The large cross at the Park's high-point offers the most complete view of Barcelona and the bay. It is possible to view the main city in panorama, with the Sagrada Familia and the Montjuic area visible at a distance.The park supports a wide variety of wildlife, notably several of the non-native species of parrot found in the Barcelona area. Other birds can be seen from the park, with records including Short-toed eagle. The park also supports a population of Hummingbird hawk moths.