Sunday, 21 July 2013

Parc Guell - a famous Gaudi icon

If you take the Metro, and get off at Vallcarca, you will notice that lots of other people get off there too.  Chances are you are all going to exactly the same place.  When Jean and I and our two daughters were last in Barcelona in December 2001, we came to admire very much the architecture of one very famous citizen, the one and only Antoni Gaudi (1852 - 1926).

Back then, we were visiting an old friend and colleague, Conchi, whom I had worked with at the BBC in London in 1988-89, and whom we're not able to see this time. She took us to various buildings designed by Gaudi, and his outlandish curves and unique style made a lasting impression on us.  One such Gaudi icon, for example, was the famous Sagrada Familia on the northeast edge of the city centre, which, at that time, had been under construction for many many years.  But on our last visit, there was one Gaudi piece that we didn't get the chance to see.  This morning, we put that situation right.

When you come out of Vallcarca, and follow the crowd, you find yourself going up, up, up a hill, and up and further up.  The hill goes so far up that the authorities have even installed outdoor escalators to assist with the upward climb.  But the escalators go only part of the way.  Finally, when you reach the top, you enter what you came for: the Parc Guell, an iconic park designed and constructed by Antoni Gaudi.

As soon as you enter, there are very good views of Barcelona.  In fact, the city stretches a long, long way.  Coming from Vallcarca, the Parc begins as a collection of trees and bushes, with the occasional tall pine, and lots of palm trees, providing shade to a collection of rhododendrons, agapanthus, and cactus, over a carpet of wood chips.   

You then climb down one side of the hill.  Soon, the park opens up.  You get past nature, and human construction appears.  You find an open gravelled area, bounded at one end by a stone wall with palm trees atop.  Behind the palm trees is another wall with built-in pillars which branch off at the top and provide support to a yet higher level.  In their branching off, the pillars resemble palm trees.  In this area, lots of people have come to pay homage to the work of a man long gone, but whose work is very gentle on the eye.  The sudden drop down at the opposite end of the gravelled area is protected by seating that curves around in a snaking pattern back round to the area's entry point.  The seating is covered in colourful mosaics.  

You soon realise the gravelled area is supported from below by around 90 or more pillars, creating the feel of a forest.  We walked down there and through the 'forest'.  As you walk down, you stroll along pathways which are themselves supporting a level above.  The supports are pillars of stone which appear to be stone tree trunks.  These little areas provide a slight cool refuge from the summer heat, and the chance to take photos.  Everywhere here, there's a photo waiting.

The open, gravelled area
Houses below the gravelled area in the Gaudi style
Gaudi's house
Gravelled area bounded by curved seats covered in mosaics
Stone pillars 
Gravelled area supported by forest of pillars
Walkways on walkways supported by Gaudi's trees of stone
Jean in the 'forest'.
The forest above

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