I spent one of the best days of my life in Park Guell in Barcelona. It was the tail end of a long Europe trip and my traveling companion and I were a bit worn out. We came into the park from the back side, riding a series of escalators up to the park’s highest elevation and then wandered slowly (yes Anatoly, I do use adverbs) down towards the largest bench I have ever seen. The bench was completely covered in mosaics and formed a squiggly circle. We sat there for what felt like hours, absorbing the truly mind-blowing scenery, reflecting on our travels. What I wouldn’t give to go back there this afternoon!
If you ever have the chance to visit be sure to carve out a full afternoon to relax there. Why exactly am I reminiscing about my Euro-trip? Because I have a copy of The Oxford Companion to The Garden on my desk. This hefty book is devoted to gardens of every kind and the people involved in their making. Below is an excerpt about Park Guell.
Barcelona, Spain, is a public park designed by Antoni Gaudi. It has its origins with Gaudi’s patron the industrialist Don Eusebi Guell I Bacigalupi. Guell had studied the English Garden Cities and resolved to create something similar in Barcelona. He found a mountainous site north-west of the city centre and from 1900 work began under Gaudi’s supervision. The venture was a failure and only three of the projected 60 houses were completed. After the Second World War the site was acquired by the city of Barcelona and it became a public park. The south-westerly entrance is unlike that of any public park in the world and immediately proclaims Gaudi’s individuality. The boundary wall is decorated with repeated medallions, worked in a mosaic of broken china, with the words Park and Guell. The entrance is guarded by two rustic stone pavilions, as though made of gingerbread, and crowned with undulating roofs covered, again, in ceramic pieces and erupting in curious towers. A double flight of steps inlaid with white ceramic rises past a brilliantly colored dragon spouting water into a trough. At the head of the stairs is the monumental Hall of a Hundred Columns which supports in its roof a huge esplanade with, snaking across one side, a curving bench inlaid with mosaic. Further up the hill paths wind among naturalistic groves of trees – palms, umbrella pines (Pinus pinea), holm oaks (Quercus ilex), and thickets of scented Pittosporum tobira. Terraces in this part of the park are supported by arcades of tufa with occasional stalactites and columns sometimes breaking out into figures. Gaudi’s artistry restrains his decorative exuberance from tumbling over into kitsch and Park Guell is both immensely popular and much admired.