The main entrance to Park Güell is on the south side, on Carrer d’Olot, from which visitors can enjoy the spectacular view of the stairway with the hypostyle room. The wall of the park is made of rustic stone topped with ceramic tiling and medallions bearing the name of Park Güell. The iron gates, designed in the shape of palm leaves, do not form part of the original plan, but came from Casa Vicens. To either side are the two pavilions that form the porter’s lodge. The one to the left was the one actually used as a porter’s lodge, with a waiting room and telephone booth, while the one to the right was the porter’s residence, whence the name Casa del Guarda, though it is today part of the Barcelona History Museum. Both have very beautiful roofs, built with the traditional Catalan clay tiles covered with “trencadís”, a mosaic made of tile shards.
From the entrance esplanade a twin flight of steps soars up, flanked by two walls with merlons that form terraces under which there are two grottos. The one to the right was used for keeping the horses and is supported by a magnificent conical central column. The stairway is divided into three sections, along which the water from a fountain runs, once supplied from the tank under the hypostyle room. On the first landing are some capricious shapes like goblins, while halfway up the steps is the emblem of Catalonia and further up the dragon, or salamander, covered with decorative tile-shard mosaic which has become the most popular image of the park. On the last flight of steps, sheltered under the hypostyle room, is a Greek-theatre shaped bench.
The great entrance stairway leads to the Hypostyle Room, which was designed to be the market for the estate. It is made up of 86 striated columns inspired in the Doric order. The outermost ones slope in an undulating movement clearly contrary to the rules of classical composition, while reinforcing a perception of their structural role. The colonnade is crowned by an architrave on which the undulating bench is placed. A conduit running inside it collects the rainwater that filters down from the square, sending it on to an underground tank, which has as the stairway dragon’s mouth as its overflow. Inside the room the absence of columns in some sections creates spaces that simulate three naves, like a great church. The ceiling is formed of small domes constructed using the traditional technique of clay bricks decorated with original tile-shard mosaics made by Josep M. Jujol, one of Gaudí’s assistants.
Right at the centre of the monumental zone of Park Güell is the large esplanade which the original plans called the Greek Theatre and which has more recently been rechristened as Plaça de la Natura (Nature Square). Its original name was due to the fact that it was planned for staging large open-air shows that could be watched from the surrounding terraces. Although Gaudí always respected the lie of the land, this large square is artificial. Part of it is dug into the rock, while the other part is held up on top of the hypostyle room. On the stairway side it is bounded by the undulating bench covered with tile-shard mosaic planned by Josep M. Jujol, acting as a balustrade, and on the mountain side by a retaining wall finished with large capitals made to look like palm trees.
On the eastern side of the Greek Theatre square there is an original iron door which leads to where there used to be the gardens of Casa Larrard, the former mansion that Güell adopted as his own house, but which has since 1931 been a school. The route, which runs at a level higher than that of the house, passes through a pine grove with the portico backing onto a retaining wall made from unworked stone. The portico adopts the shape of a great wave atop slanting columns, with a double colonnade that acts as a buttress. It is one of the finest examples of the organic architecture upheld by Gaudí. The same meaning, at once structural and aesthetic, can be appreciated in the spiral ramp which takes visitors down to the house, at the end of the path.
What we now know as the Austria Gardens was one of the zones to be used as plots in the estate. When the Park Güell was turned into a public park, however, the zone was used as a municipal plant nursery. This part of the precinct has a completely different look to the rest of the park, and it got its name through a donation of trees from Austria in 1977. The garden has good views, and from its centre the two houses that were built in Eusebi Güell's time can be seen: the one belonging to lawyer Martí Trias i Domènech, planned by architect Juli Batllevell, and the estate show home, by Francesc Berenguer, which was finally acquired by the Gaudí family for their home, and which is now the Gaudí House Museum.
Outside the monumental zone of the central part of the park, running east towards the Carretera del Carmel exit, is the Pont de Baix, bridge, the first of the viaducts of the network of paths that help overcome the topography and connect the various parts of the park. Gaudí planned three viaducts with a width of five metres, snaking their way up the mountain, to lead carriages from the main entrance on Carrer d’Olot up to the high part of the estate, the Turó de Tres Creus (Three Crosses Hill). They are known as the Pont de Baix, the Pont del Mig and the Pont de Dalt (lower, middle and high bridges), names that already appeared on the first postcards of the park. They are suspended on a structure of sloping columns and vaults made from unhewn stones taken from the site itself. On their upper parts, the balustrades are crowned by plots with vegetation.
The other large arterial roadway in the estate is the transversal road, ten metres wide, which connects the Carretera del Carmel with the Sant Josep de la Muntanya exit, running around the great square from above. Gaudí also planned three metre-wide paths for people on foot and shortcuts with steps and slopes allowing direct access to the various plots.
Texts by Joan Roca i Albert (director of MUHBA), Mireia Freixa (professor at the University of Barcelona) and Mar Leniz (architect)