If you ever visit Barcelona there’s one thing you can’t miss; the city-wide obsession with the early 20th century architect Gaudi. Opinions on this great master’s work are varied, from hatred to passionate love. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about his work but I was mesmerized by the design at the massive Park Guell. Designed around 1912, the Park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has shifted from its original purpose as a housing development to a beloved public space. Walking into the park is like tripping down Alice’s rabbit hole as normal colors and shapes no longer hold their meaning.
The park was modeled after new theories about urban planning that spanned the globe at the start of the 20th century. The garden city movement promised a healthier, more relaxed way of living within the confines of a sometimes dirty and hectic city. Sadly, the development never took off even though Gaudi himself had a house on the site. The area was left in near ruin for years but now has been completely rehabilitated and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax.
Not only is the park huge, it encompasses 42 acres in the middle of busy Barcelona, but it’s also insanely popular. I was there on a public holiday and the locals far outnumbered tourists as they found quiet spots for afternoon picnics. It’s nice to see something being used maybe not exactly as it was intended, but in a way nevertheless complementary to the designer’s mission. But this was the moment that my newfound respect for the Spanish master began to waver. Parts of the park were enticing but others were just ugly, out of place and dare I say gaudy. I did love his Alice in Wonderland style houses though.