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Park Güell Review
Güell Park is one of Gaudí's, and Barcelona's, most pleasant and stimulating places to spend a few hours. Whereas Gaudí's landmark Sagrada Família can be exhaustingly bright and hot in its massive energy and complexity, Park Güell is invariably light and playful, uplifting and restorative. Alternately shady, green, floral, or sunny, the park always has a delicious corner for whatever one needs. Named for and commissioned by Gaudí's main patron, Count Eusebi Güell, it was originally intended as a hillside garden community based on the English Garden City model, centered, amazingly enough, on an open-air theater built over a covered marketplace. Only two of the houses were ever built (one of which, designed by Gaudí assistant Francesc Berenguer, became Gaudí's home from 1906 to 1926 and now houses the park's Gaudí museum). Ultimately, as Barcelona's bourgeoisie seemed happier living closer to "town," the Güell family turned the area over to the city as a public park.
An Art Nouveau extravaganza with gingerbread gatehouses topped with, respectively, the hallucinogenic red-and-white fly ammanite wild mushroom (rumored to have been a Gaudí favorite) on the right and the phallus impudicus (no translation necessary) on the left, Park Güell is a perfect visit for a sunny afternoon when the blue of the Mediterranean is best illuminated by the western sun. The gatehouse on the right holds the Center for the Interpretation and Welcome to Park Güell. The center has plans, scale models, photos, and suggested routes analyzing the park in detail. Other Gaudí highlights include the Casa-Museu Gaudí (a house in which Gaudí lived), the Room of a Hundred Columns—a covered market supported by tilted Doric-style columns and mosaic-encrusted buttresses, and guarded by a patchwork lizard—and the fabulous serpentine, polychrome bench that snakes along the main square. The bench is one of Gaudí assistant Josep Maria Jujol's most memorable creations, and one of Barcelona's best examples of the trencadis technique of making colorful mosaics with broken bits of tile.
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