Parc Güell, built between 1900 and 1914, was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site. The idea behind the site came from Count Eusebi Güell. The Count wanted to build a type of gated community for Barcelona aristocracy – consisting of 60 houses surrounded by an extraordinary park.
The designer of the park, Antonio Gaudi, was an Art Nouveau and Modernist architect situated in Barcelona. He was a master of combing color and natural shapes into something out of this world.
Arguably, no other architect in history has ever had such an absolute influence on a city as Antonio Gaudi has had on Barcelona. There are great works of his Modernist style all over the city and this beautiful park is one of his most interesting works.
A change of plans
The gated community Count Eusebi Güell had planned for did not work out. Due to poor response from potential clients, only two of the planned 60 houses ended up being built – neither of them designed by Gaudi.
One of these two buildings was intended to be a show house, but as no buyers came, Gaudi decided to buy it himself. He moved in with his family together with his father in 1906 and lived there on and off until his death in 1926. The building is today known as “la Torre Rosa” or “Casa-Museu Gaudi”.
A public park
Even though the gated community became an epic failure, the park remained a private garden of the Güell family until the 1920s. By then, the family handed over the park to the municipality which transformed it into the public park we have today.
Why visit Parc Güell ?
Antonio Gaudi’s Parc Güell is a park which is truly one of a kind. Nowhere else is there a park where beautiful rough stone creations, ceramic tiles, and landscaping details creates such an amazing fantasy world, while at the same time not overpowering the natural setting of the park environment.
Inspired by nature
Throughout the park, Gaudi’s strong influence by natural shapes is evident. Here visitors can find walkways supported by twisting rock pillars that seem to be growing out of the ground like trees.
One can also find several animal inspired sculptures, the most prominent one being the dragon found at the entrance to the park. The dragon is adorned with beautiful colored tiling, called “trencadis”, which Gaudi often used in his creations.
The focal point of the park is however the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench shaped as a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a great social atmosphere for all the visitors.
Many people rate Park Güell as a must see when visiting Barcelona; not only to enjoy the park but the amazing panoramic view of the city from the main terrace area. In 1984, Barcelona’s most magical park became listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List; a true testament to how extraordinary this fascinating site is.
La Torre Rosa
One of the houses that did end up being built – La Torre Rosa – is today museum. The museum has notable examples of furnishings designed by Gaudi and other personal memorabilia. This house is definitely a must see for everyone interested in Gaudi and his architectural style.
Parc Güell location
Parc Güell is located in Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The park is situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of the city. For the exact location of Parc Güell, check out the location map to the right.
Casa Milà was commissioned as a residence by Pedro Milà. He was a wealthy businessman who had been enchanted by one of Gaudi’s previous buildings; Casa Battló. What he ended up with was an even more unconventional building, as Gaudi took his creativity one step further. Gaudi´s design was so unorthodox that even the local government objected to some aspects of the project, as it didn’t follow the normal building codes.
Art Nouveau masterpiece
This wonderfully strange building was constructed between 1906 and 1910, a key time in the history of Barcelona as the city opened up to modernization. It was also a period where the Art Nouveau was at its peak. It is a style of art and architecture which embraces vivid decorative shapes and prefers curves over straight lines.
The movement spread all over the world, even to the strict catholic and rather old-fashioned Catalan region. One of the movement’s front figures became the Barcelona based architect Antonio Gaudi. This building is rated as, not only one of Antonio Gaudi’s most intriguing and spectacular buildings, but as a crown jewel of the whole Art Nouveau movement.
The building was originally named Casa Milà, based on the founder of the house, but it is more known as “La Pedrera” – meaning “the Quarry”. The nickname was given to the house already during the construction phase, when the crowds saw the beginning of the strange stone structure.
An innovative design
Gaudi’s building plan completely broke away from the norm of the district of Barcelona. He used a new and audacious building structure, supported by columns of stone and brick and an incorporated steel web instead of relying on load-bearing walls.
This gave Gaudi total freedom over the distribution of each floor, leaving him free to create completely irregular floor plans where even the height of the pillars and ceilings could vary. Even though Gaudi’s building technique was unique, he – and this building in particular – is most known for extraordinary shapes.
Why visit Casa Milà ?
Casa Milà is one of the most fascinating buildings in the world. By looking at the enchanting façade, visitors will see an impressive, varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone without any real straight lines. Gaudi is said to have envisioned the facade as a petrified wave. Many people think it is the hardness and solidity of the material in contrast with the sensation of movement in these waves that makes the façade so spectacular.
Gaudi’s ocean theme is further evident when looking at the balconies. The balconies are beautifully decorated with exquisitely crafted iron, depicting underwater plants and vegetation.
Visitors paying extra attention to the balconies will almost be able to see how the vegetation is moving along with the water. Another ocean themed part is the sidewalk next to the building, which is covered in starfish ceramic tiles. The magnificent façade, together with the interior marine decorations, makes up a fantastic underwater landscape.
While the façade and the interior of the building is wonderful, one shouldn’t forget what can be found on the rooftop. On the roof stands chimneys and ventilation just as on any other roof. These are however designed by Gaudi in true Gaudi fashion with extraordinary shapes and vivid imagination. The unique components are made of broken tile shard mosaic, Ulldecona stone, marble and ceramics. There is also a level difference and several staircases on the roof, which makes it all look more like a landscape than a rooftop.
The staircases and chimneys have long fascinated visitors. The rooftop and its figures have been interpreted in many different ways; some have seen them as phantasmagorical figures and warriors while others have seen it as a dream landscape. The roof-terrace also provides its visitors with a nice great over the area.
La Pedrera is owned by the Catalonian Bank Caixa Catalunya, who bought, restored and opened up the building to tourists in the mid 1980ies. It has today become the head office of their cultural foundation which annually hosts a variety of exhibitions and cultural events.
The building is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is the last example of Gaudi’s civil architecture. It is considered one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture.
Casa Milà location
Casa Milà is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The building can be found on the street Paseo de Gracia in central parts of the city. For the exact location of Casa Milà, check out the location map to the right.
The initiative to build a new grand church came from the bookseller and chairman of the Holy Brotherhood, José Maria Bocabella, in the mid 19th century. The church would be devoted to the child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, which is why the church is named “Sagrada Familia” – “The Holy Family”.
The planning of the church began when the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar offered to design the whole structure. He planned a more typical gothic church, but was later forced to resign from his job due to fundamental disagreements with the founder Bocabella. A few months after del Villar’s resignation, a young architect by the name of Antonio Gaudi took over the work in 1883.
What Gaudi didn’t know at the time was that his new project would take up almost all his time and effort for the rest of his life. Once the construction phase started, he soon became obsessed with the project and set up an office on site which became his permanent residence.
His plan was to build facades which would represent the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. The church would have a total of eighteen towers symbolizing the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the Virgin Mary and Christ.
The one representing Christ would be the tallest and would stand 170 meters high, crowned by a large cross. The tower would be one meter less than the Montjuïc, a hill in Barcelona, as Gaudi said he didn’t want to suppress the work of God.
Gaudi devoted his last 15 years fully to the Sagrada Familia, until he by accident was hit a tram. This accident led to his death, a few days later in 1926 – 74 years old. What made Gaudi’s architectural style so exciting was his sense for shapes. Instead of designing buildings with straight lines, Gaudi worked much with loose vivid design.
The Casa Mila and the eastern façade of Sagrada Famila are perfect examples of this. Arguably, no other architect in history has ever had such an absolute influence on a city as Antoni Gaudi has had on Barcelona. There are great works of his Modernist style all over the city but the greatest of all his works is of course the impressive Sagrada Familia.
After Gaudi’s death, work continued as planned. However, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, work came to a halt and parts of Gaudi’s models and plans were destroyed. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.
Today, computer technology is being used to pre-shape the stones off site, rather than shape them on site by hand. This has significantly affected the pace of the construction and it’s now scheduled to be completed around 2020-2030.
Many believe the deadline is set to June 10th 2026, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s tragic death. On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudi is said to have remarked “My client is not in a hurry.”
Why visit Sagrada Familia ?
The full name of this site is Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, but it is often simply called the Sagrada Familia. Many say that if you only have time to visit one site in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia should be it. It is easy to understand why when looking at it. Even though the church is still under construction, it has become a symbol for Barcelona and the Catalonian region.
Full of symbolism
If there is something the church is full of, except enchanting beauty, then it is symbolism. Themes throughout the detailed decoration include words from the Christian liturgy. For example, the towers are decorated with words such as “Hosanna”, “Excelsis” and “Sanctus”, but the most detailed parts of the church are the magnificent facades.
When completed, the Church will have three grand façades: the Passion façade to the West, the Nativity façade to the East and the Glory façade to the South. The latter is the one still under construction.
The Passion façade, also known as the Façade of the Suffering Way, is most known for its unorthodox sculptures. The façade is actually designed by Gaudi during the time he suffered from a serious illness. The work was carried out later in 1989 by the sculptor Josep Subirachs, based on Gaudi’s drawings. As visitors can see, the sculptor’ style is – in contrast with Gaudi’s – very much based around sharp edges.
The façade is based around telling the story of the suffering of Christ, showing different stages of the suffering with the help of sculptures, in an “S-shaped” pattern. Starting on the first level, to the very far left of the entrance, stands statues depicting the last supper. The next step in the “S-shaped” story telling is to the left of the entrance, where one can see how Judas the betrayer is kissing Jesus.
Behind them one can see a magic square, filled with different numbers. Before reaveling the square’s secret, try to find it out yourself. Can you solve the riddle of the magic square? On the pillar in between the entrances stands Jesus tied and tormented. The statues to the right depicts Peter’s denial and to the far right Jesus trial.
Above the trial stands the three Marys and above the entrance, Golgotha; the place where Jesus was crucified. To the left is a statue depicting the mounted solider Longino – the man who the legend has it pierced Jesus side with a spear.
Above him is several soldiers depicted while they were gambling for Jesus clothes, and to the right of them – the crucifixion. The last sculptures to the far right shows the entombment of Christ.
One little detail many people don’t notice can be found far above the entrance, at the archway between the towers. By looking closely to towards the right side, one can see a golden statue of the risen Christ. By taking a look at the main doors, visitors will see that they are filled with words from the Bible in various languages, including Catalan.
The Nativity façade was built before work was interrupted by the civil war. This is the façade which bears the most direct Gaudi influence. It consists of four bell towers and three large portals. From left to right stands the Portal of Hope, the Portal of Charity and the Portal of Faith. By looking towards the top of the portals, one can see that they symbolize grottos.
In fact, throughout the whole Nativity Façade, there is a clear theme of nature, as many of the sculptures symbolize vegetation, people and birds. This is a celebration to the ever changing nature and to the creators of all forms of life.
The Portal of Hope
The leftmost portal, known as the Portal of Hope, is covered in flora and fauna from the Nile. The portal shows the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and to the right stands Herod murdering innocent children. The portal also displays some hope, in form of Joseph standing together with his son above the doorway. In the top of the portal one can also see the marriage between Joseph and Mary.
The Portal of Faith
The rightmost Portal is known as the Portal of Faith. The sculptures’ surrounding the portal depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Family in their house at Nazareth and the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple. In the very top visitors can see the Immaculate Conception – a Roman Catholic Dogma which says that Virgin Mary is without any original sin.
The Portal of Charity
The portal in the middle is the largest one. It is known as the Portal of Charity. In the middle of this portal stand two doors, supported by a beautiful pillar. Lower part of the pillar depicts a snake sinking its teeth into an apple. This is the symbol of original sin which is the reason Jesus came to earth. On the left side of the doors stands the Three Kings, bringing their gifts to the newborn Jesus, and on the other side the Three Shepherds.
The sculptures above the doors represents the birth of Christ and the top depicts how Jesus crowns the Virgin Mary Queen of Heaven. Above that, closer to the very top of the portal, stands the letters “JHS” – an anagram for Christ’s name.
The Portal of Charity is crowned with a large tree of life. On the pinnacle of the tree stands a large red “T”; the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet which reads “tau”, the initial of the name of God. On top of the T is a smaller X, which represents Christ. At the very top you can also see a white dove, which represents the Holy Spirit. Thus, the three persons of the Holy Trinity are represented at the top of the tree, symbolizing the creators of life.
Between the tree portals stands two massive pillars. The pillars are resting on the backs of turtles. Turtles have long been seen as a divine animal with connections to the heavens and the cosmos, known for their longevity.
Half way up, the columns bear the inscriptions ‘Joseph’ and ‘Mary’. The columns are crowned with palms to symbolize triumph and the coming of a new light. In the old days, palms symbolized the martyr and his or her triumph over death.
A lot to discover
As clearly shown, the whole church is absolutely full of symbolism. Giving all the details about all the symbols covering the church would need a smaller essay. One thing is for sure; visitors to Sagrada Familia will have a lot of things to discover!
Remember the Magic Square located on the Passion façade, behind Judas? In case you haven’t solved the riddle, the answer is that all the numbers adds up to 33; the age Jesus was when he died.
Today, even though it’s unfinished, the church has become a top tourist attraction, not only in Barcelona, but in whole Spain. The visitors are an important source of income as the project is not supported by any government or official church sources. An estimate of more than two million people visits the site each year.
For a small fee, one can enter the church and take an elevator – or climb the more than 400 steps – to an observation point. It provides a great view over the beautiful city of Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia location
Sagrada Familia is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain.For the exact location of Sagrada Familia, check out the location map to the right.
The wonderfully strange house that is Casa Batlló was originally built between year 1875 and 1877. In the early 20th century, the house was bought by the rich industrialist Josep Batlló who intended to tear down the old house and build a new one on the site. He contacted Antonio Gaudi who accepted the job of designing this new structure. Gaudi did however convince Batlló to keep the old structure and simply remodel it instead of tearing it down.
Between the years 1904 and 1906, Gaudi completely remodeled the interior, created a new façade and a new roof, while also adding extra height to the building. The project was strongly discussed by the local government, as many elements of the design completely broke away from the Barcelonan building norms and standards.
Fortunately, the project was allowed to be completed. Even though it is based on a previous structure, Gaudi basically constructed a whole new building. While Gaudi is the man behind the building and its design, he still had help from experts within the fields of carpeting, ceramics and iron works to complete the structure. The name “Casa Batlló” simply means “The house of Batlló”, based onits founder.
Why visit Casa Batlló ?
To no surprise, the Casa Batlló is most known for its outstanding façade. Casa Batlló is generally considered to have one of the most creative and brilliant urban façades in the world. The façade is, like everything Gaudi created, almost without any straight lines and a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture.
The house of Bones
The lower levels are astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work. These large windows have given the building one of its nicknames, the “House of Yawns”.
By looking above the ground floor, at the large oval windows, visitors can see that the pillars look very similar to bones. This has, together with the balconies which also looks like pieces from a skeleton, given the house its other nickname; the “House of Bones”.
Much of the upper façade is decorated with a beautiful Catalan mosaic made of glazed ceramic tiles, which makes the building look like something taken from a fairy tale. The glazed ceramic tiling is a typical trademark of Antonio Gaudi.
The roof further adds to the surrealistic feeling one get from looking at the house. Visitors getting a closer look at the roof will see that it is arched and that the scaly tiling very much resembles the back of a dragon or dinosaur.
A common theory about Casa Batlló is that it pays tribute to the legend of the Catalonian patron saint, Saint George, and his battle with the dragon. The spire like feature on the left side of the roof would then represent “Ascalon”, the sword of Saint George, which has been plunged into the back of the dragon. The bone-like features of the façade would represent the bones of all of the dragon’s victims or the bones from the dragon itself.
The world of Gaudi
Casa Batlló is not all about its exterior. There is of course a ton of other things to see on the inside as well. People say it’s the façade that catches ones attention – but it is the interior that captures ones imagination. Visitors to the inside of Casa Batlló can find undulating walls, beautiful tile and many other decorative elements.
A visit to the inside is highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture in general and Antonio Gaudi in particular, as it will provide a deeper understanding of the famous architect and his intentions. It is also a fantastic chance to escape and become lost in one of Gaudi’s dreamlands.
The Casa Batlló is today one of Barcelona’s most famous buildings and it can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage List; a testament to the uniqueness of this enchanting building.
In good company
Casa Batlló can be found on the street “Mançana de la Discordia”. On this street stand three fashionable buildings, made by three important modernist architects. While Casa Batlló is the most famous one, the others are still worth mentioning. On one side of Casa Balló stands Casa Amatller, designed by Josep Puig. Further down the same street, in the corner, stands Casa Lléo Morera, designed by Lluis Domènech.
The name “Mançana de la Discordia” means “Apple of Discord”. The name refers to Greek mythology where an apple, given by the goddess Eris “to the fairest”, lead to a dispute between three goddesses, eventually leading to the Trojan War. In this case it of course refers to the rivalry of three architects and their buildings, instead of the goddesses and luckily it hasn’t led to any war.
Casa Batlló location
Casa Batlló is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The building can be found on the famous street “Mançana de la Discordia”. For the exact location of Casa Batlló, check out the location map to the right.