This mansion is an important early work of Antoni Gaudí. Built between 1885 and 1889, it was the first major commission the architect received from Eusebi Güell, the wealthy industrialist who went onto become Gaudí's lifelong friend and patron.
A plot was chosen just off Les Ramblas in the lower Raval district, more for its close proximity to Güell's father's residence than anything else, and Gaudí was given carte blanche. Although much of the marble for the town house was supplied by Güell's own quarry, it is said that his accountants criticized the architect on more than one occasion for his heavy-handed spending. However, Sr. Güell himself, as much a lover of the arts as Gaudí was, wished to impress his family and Barcelona's high society with an extravagant showpiece. He got his wish. Sometimes heavy-handed in detail, the work's genius lies in its layout and inspired interconnected spaces.
The facade of the building is Venetian in style and marked by two huge arched entrances protected by intricate forged iron gates and a shield of Catalonia, lending it a fortress-like appearance. The interior of the Palau Güell can only be viewed by guided tour. First you'll see the basement stables, which feature the nature-obsessed architect's signature columns with mushroom capitals, then you ascend again to view the interconnected floors. The first, the anteroom, is in fact four salons. Most of the surfaces are dark, lending the rooms a heaviness, with Moorish-style detailing predominant throughout. Lightness comes in the form of an ingenious system that filters natural light via a constellation of perforated stars inlaid in a parabolic dome above the central hall. Also outstanding is the screened, street-facing gallery that sweeps the entire length of the facade, letting light into all salons except the "ladies room," where female visitors did their touchups before being received by Sr. Güell. The ceilings of the first floor, in oak and bulletwood, are beautifully decorated with foliage, starting off as buds in the first room and in full bloom by the fourth. The dining room and the private apartments contain some original furniture, a sumptuous marble staircase, and a magnificent fireplace designed by architect Camil Oliveras, a regular collaborator with Gaudí. But visitors are usually most impressed by the roof, with its army of centurion-like trencadis-covered chimneys. These chimneys, along with the rest of the building, were given an overhaul in the mid-1990s, and their tilework was restored; see if you can spot the one bearing a fragment of the Olympic mascot Cobi. Note: At the time of this writing, the building was closed for repairs scheduled to last until spring 2007.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2009
- Highly Recommended 2010