ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SIGHTS IN BARCELONA, BEGAN WITH A VISION BY EUSEBI GÜELL
Eusebi Güell, the extremely successful businessman, who had already made a name for himself as a patron of the arts, was also interested in technology, whilst also being highly committed to the well-being of his employees and social needs in general. He commissioned the architect Antoni Gaudí, who designed his buildings in the formal language of modernism, a cultural and social renewal movement in the then Catalan-speaking area, a type of Art Nouveau, to make his dreams come true. Güell understood the uniqueness of Gaudí’s architecture better than his contemporaries at the time, and a lifelong friendship developed very early on, beyond their successful business relationship.
Park Güell, one of their combined projects, with an area of more than 17 hectares, is located in the Gracia district, and was designed and implemented between 1900 – 1914. The original idea was to build a housing estate for wealthy families with its own market and theater on the large property that Güell had acquired to build a public space. He wanted to recreate the style of an English garden city, and so called it Park Güell in English.
The location was unique and had a wonderful view of the bay of Barcelona. Only the structural requirements were very restrictive, as only one sixth of the property was permitted for construction, and the height and placement of the houses and further restrictions that prevented the blocking of sea views and sunlight from the neighbors. Around 60 triangular parcels were planned, which were supplemented by a complex network of paths, viaducts and stairs to adapt to the terrain and integrate into nature.
In the second half of the 19th century, Barcelona expanded very quickly and began to develop into a large bourgeois center. It was at this time that Güell and Gaudí were born, only to find each other years later and create historical works of art. Who would have known that years later, their works would be declared a World Heritage Site.
On December 15, 1846, Eusebi Güell was born into a wealthy family in Barcelona. His father, who came from Tarragona and made his fortune in Cuba, returned to Spain in 1830, settled in Barcelona and founded a number of successful companies, mainly in the textile industry. Before he could take over the only business of his father and being the only male descendant, he left to study in England and France, from where he brought many ideas and was later able to increase the family fortune through innovative businesses. Eventually he married the daughter of Antonio López y López, the richest man in Spain at the time, making him the second richest.
A few years later, on June 25, 1852, Antoni Gaudí, who brought Catalan architecture to worldwide fame and prestige, was born in a small town near Reus into a family of coppersmith. As a dis- ease-prone child, he spent a lot of time at home from a young age, observing nature, from which he drew the greatest inspiration. Working in the workshop gave the young Gaudí a special understanding of space and volume, and laid the foundation for his professional career. In 1878, he graduated as an architect in Barcelona and created his own unique style.
The collaboration between the two men began in 1878 at the World Exhibition in Paris, when Güell met the then unknown Gaudí, who exhibited a piece of furniture he had designed himself in the Spanish pavilion. The two shared the same personal and professional interests and soon became friends. Several joint projects followed, the longest of which was taking over the management of the Sagrada Família, which had started in March 1883. This task, on which he was only able to concentrate fully from 1914 after the park was closed, was to drag on until 1926. In 1888, Barcelona, the Catalan capital, hosted the first Spanish World’s Fair, where the 530,000 inhabitants could expose the wonderful city and its attractions to the world. At the time, the city was considered the second-largest on a political level and was acclaimed to be the largest industrialized region in Spain. The exhibition led to a even further boost in economic, architectural and technological growth.
Read the full article in Issue 16