A small visit #1 – Park Güell, Barcelona

Hi everyone, today’s post is going to be a little different.

Have you ever been to Barcelona? You may haven’t visited it yet, but probably you have heard about it because nowadays the city has become a well known touristic place. I’m from there and every day I see more tourists wandering through its streets and monuments, but if I have to talk about one of its most famous sites, it has to be no other than the Park Güell.

Detail of the bench in Nature Square

Detail of the bench in Nature Square

If you’ve answered affirmatively the first question I’m pretty sure that you have walked through its dirt roads, sat in its curvy benches, stroked the coloured dragon and enjoyed its great panoramics of the city.

Well, first a little bit of history: this park was an idea of a wealthy industrial, called Eusebi Güell, who in the beggining of the 20th century wanted to build a “garden city” in one of the hills of Barcelona. So, in the name Park Güell we have the concept (Park) and the name of his initial owner (Güell).

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Carob’s viaduct

But what makes it so special? it’s because he asked the architect Antoni Gaudí to build it. Gaudí was a well known architect of the modernism style (the Sagrada Familia is another one of his famous works among others). Nature, its curved forms and the symbolism were the main inspiration of this genial architect.

To end with this little approach to the park’s history, the most important thing is that the original idea of building houses in the middle of a park didn’t have any success and nowadays we can only see a few buildings enclosed by walls and filled with nature (there were two original buildings constructed when the plan was to build sixty two).

Back to the present and knowing a bit of its history, if you visit the park you have to expect a long walk into a place where nature is wisely fused with the works of a man who talked directly to it (and with it). Of course, that’s a great place to take photos, due to its originality and fantastic atmosphere.

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Planter’s viaduct

The photos of this post were taken last Christmas and as you can see they are more touristic snapshots than professional photography, mostly because we wanted to enjoy the park. As photographers sometimes we get lost in the tiny viewfinder of the camera and because of that we end up loosing the material sense of places and situations. And believe me, in Park Güell you don’t want that to happen, I’m sure Gaudí built this place so you could experience it.

Hypostyle hall

Hypostyle hall

If you have the oportunity to go there, there are some spots that you will enjoy photographing:

1. The bench of the Square of Nature: this square is the heart of the park, it was suppose to be the central meeting point of the initial “garden city” where people could go to the market, gather for parties and festivities, etc. Now it’s a big dirt square sorrounded by a long curvy bench which is covered by tiny ceramic pieces (mostly in white, but also with a lot of vivid colors and patterns). If you are lucky and there are few people visiting, you can play with its curvature and do some great compositions with the city scape in front.

2. Carob’s viaduct: if you go downstairs from the Square of Nature, you’ll find a surprisingly construction in stone that mimics the form of waves, at your right. Just enjoy the possibilities it offers for photography.

3. Hypostyle hall: continuing downstairs from Carob’s viaduct you’ll arrive at this hall with eighty-six columns that is just below the Square of Nature. There are plenty of photographic opportunities here, from the beautiful ceiling to the columns that shape light accordingly to the time of the day.

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View from above: the main stairs with the Dragon and Juli (the un-official guardian of the park) sitting on the bench

4. Main stairs: from the hypostyle hall if you continue down you’ll find the place where lies the Dragon, a mythologic animal that is covered with the same little ceramic pieces, which is also a fountain. You have to be very fortunate to find it alone. If you do, without anyone around it or sitting on its sides, you’ll be able to capture it without elbows, legs or any other part of someone’s body which it’s quite frankly almost impossible.

* One special thing: in front of the Dragon there’s a bench that is almost always occupied by an old man (Juli), wearing a hat and a whistle to warn people to respect the animal (often they climb over it). If you want to know more about the park and some of it’s mysteries (from masonry to christianism) you can ask him (the pity is that he only speaks Spanish and Catalan) and he would be happy to answer you. He doesn’t actually work for the park but he goes there every day, so he knows a lot of things about it.

When you get to the bottom of the main stairs just turn around and watch all the beauty that sorrounds you, sure you’ll take a lot more photos there.

Ceiling of the Hypostyle hall

Ceiling of the Hypostyle hall

Those spots I have mentioned are the most famous of the place, but you can also go to the top of the hill and enjoy the panoramics of the city and the natural and least crowded part of the park.

Finally, when you exit the park you feel that you have been in a kind of fantastic place, not conventional at all, and when you look again at your photos you may see they are beautiful but they lack the magic of the place itself.

(copyright – images – Micael Nussbaumer & Carlota Sas, 2012; text – Carlota Sas 2013)

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