Barcelona

Palau Güell: Early Antoni Gaudí architecture

Palau Güell entrance
Palau Güell entrance

Palau Güell (website), constructed between 1886 and 1890, is another home designed by the famed Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudí. I say “another” because I posted an entry a little while back on Casa Batlló, which Gaudí designed for the Batlló family.

That having been said, “another” might be a tad misleading. While in Barcelona I didn’t visit Gaudí’s buildings in chronological order. Nor did I write about them in that order.

Palau Güell is an example of Gaudí’s early architecture. It was designed for Eusebi Güell at a time when he was just starting to develop his style. Gaudí designed and built it before Casa Battló.

In my opinion, Palau Güell shows the world a somewhat forbidding face, particularly if you look at it from across and down the street a bit. The large arched doorways are much more regal than any home that an average working class family would ever own. However, I didn’t find them particularly striking. Nor did I find them especially welcoming.

That having been said, the whimsical, monochrome, bird-topped sculpture that sat on the outside of the building between the two arched doorways was somewhat impressive. But, other than that, the building’s façade didn’t grab me.

Fortunately, none of the locals or tourists grabbed me either. I’m kind of skittish about complete strangers doing that sort of thing unexpectedly in a foreign land. Or back home, for that matter.

Start at the Bottom

Functionally decorative back façade
Functionally decorative back façade

Inside was more impressive.

The self-guided tour of Palau Güell starts in the basement. Down there, brawny but fanciful mushroom-shaped pillars hold up the structure.

Back in the day, the basement housed stables. However, there doesn’t seem to be much call for stables in the middle of Barcelona these days. You know, progress.

Then again, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the horse droppings that typically come with in-use stables. So there’s that.

Grand Staircase at Palau Güell

Grand staircase
Grand staircase

After climbing back up to the main level, the first main architectural feature to greet me was a grand staircase with a coffered ceiling. A stained glass window with geometric patterned white, red, yellow and brown panes was set into the wall behind the top of the stairs.

I confess. I picked up that “coffered ceiling” bit off the audio guide provided at the Palau Güell. I’m an ignoramus when it comes to architectural terms. I’d heard the term “coffered ceiling,” but I had no idea what it was until a pleasant voice in my ear told me, in effect, “hey, idiot, you’re looking at one.”

Admittedly, the audio guide was way more polite than that. However, it was probably just being nice. I suspect that after the staff put the audio guide back in its charger at the end of the day it is highly judgmental. It probably sits there cursing imbecilic tourists like me. But I might be letting my imagination and insecurities get the better of me. Then again, maybe not

Rich Wood Throughout

Room in Palau Güell
Room in Palau Güell

Many of the floors and walls of the rooms throughout the residence were constructed of beautiful, richly hued wood. And Gaudí seemed to have a great fondness for arched shapes. They’re well represented in Palau Güell.

Thanks to the coffered ceiling above the grand staircase, and thanks to the audio guide being kind enough to point out to me that it was indeed a coffered ceiling, I was able to identify coffered ceilings in many of the rooms in Palau Güell. Education is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, my memory is such that I’ll probably forget the definition of coffered in the fullness of time, or 37 minutes from now, whichever comes first.

Each of the coffered ceilings was unique. All were imaginative, beautiful and very three-dimensional.
Something I witnessed in one of the bedrooms was kind of weird. No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. No one was “doing it.” Wait. What? That’s not what you were thinking? Oh. Never mind.

What I found weird was that, here was this residence for rich people, yet one of the bedrooms had an en suite bathroom  that was smaller than the one in my condo unit back home in Toronto.

I don’t know why people use the swinging of dead cats as the ultimate measure of smallness. But the en suite bathroom in my condo isn’t large enough for that macabre activity. This particular bathroom in Palau Güell was even smaller.

Terraces

Gaudí chimney tops
Gaudí chimney tops

About mid-way up, off the back of the building, there was a terrace that provided a view of the rear façade. The back façade included ornate decorations that shaded a grand bay window. (Based on two data points—admittedly, not exactly a statistically significant sample—mid-level terraces appear to have been a thing with Gaudí. There was also one at Casa Battló.)

There was also a rooftop terrace with an undulating floor. Phantasmagorical chimney pot sculptures typical of Gaudí dotted the roof.

The roof also supported a spire that looked like a Hobbit dwelling. It was more than just decoration, although it was certainly that. The spire also served a functional purpose. It drew light into the central hall of the residence.

There was also a good view of Barcelona from the rooftop terrace.

– – – –

If I took away one message from Palau Güell, it was this: Damn! Some people live (or, rather, in the case of Eusebi Güell, lived) way, way, way better than I do. What the hell am I doing wrong?

 

 

Been there? Done that? Do tell.