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Who was Gaudi´s friend, Eusebi Guell?

Eusebi Güell, one of Gaudi´s biggest admirers, lifelong friend and patron.

The Family Güell

Painting of The Family Güell
From the book La vida a palau, Eusabie Guell, Antoni Gaudi. Two houses and a project.

As (almost) every visitor of Barcelona knows, Antoni Gaudí shaped the Barcelona cityscape like no other. His work and the history of the city remain the biggest reason that Barcelona looks like it does today. Some of the most beautiful buildings in the city come from his hand.

A lesser-known part of Barcelona´s history is that behind the great architect, was another great figure of Barcelona. One of Gaudi´s biggest admirers, lifelong friend and patron, Eusebi Güell (1846 – 1918). He made many of the constructions for Gaudi´s buildings possible. Even from Antoni´s early years, when he did not yet have the fame or money.

Who was Eusebi Guell?

nlack and white picture of Eusebi Guell

Eusebi Güell, known as Count Güell, was a Catalan textile entrepreneur. He was the second richest person in Spain in the early 1900’s. Güell was born in Barcelona and was the son of Joan Güell i Ferrer.

His father was a wealthy industrialist who had collected considerable riches during his stay in Cuba. His mother, Francesca Bacigalupi I Dolcer, was a member of an ancient merchant family from Genoa.

Her family moved to Catalonia in the late 18th century. Eusebi Güell inherited his father’s good business sense and his mother’s (Francesca Bacigalupi I Dolcer) love for art.

How did Antoni Gaudi and Eusebi Güell meet?

Drawing of Eusebi Guell and antoni Gaudi
("Don Eusebi Güell and Don Antón Gaudí in the Colonia Güell"). Drawing by Ricard Opisso

The cooperation between Eusebi Güell and architect Antoni Gaudí began when Güell saw a display that Gaudí made, at the Exhibition in Paris in 1878. Interested in the man who made the display, the two eventually met.

That same year, Güell commissioned Antoni Gaudi to make the furniture for the pantheon chapel at the Palacio de Sobrellano in Comillas, on the Cantabrian coast. This marked the beginning of many projects together, of whom you can still visit today.

Finca Güell: Antoni Gaudí was commissioned by Eusebi Güell to design the boundary wall and the gates giving access to the property. This property, situated in Les Corts, was inherited from his father.

The Finca is situated in Les Corts, the west of Barcelona. Gaudí worked on the project from 1884 to 1887, re-landscaping the garden and building and the two gatehouses.

Nowadays, the best surviving part of this estate is its magnificent iron dragon. Gaudí recreated the legend of Ladon, the dragon which guarded the entrance to the Garden of the Hesperides.

This was a tribute to the Catalan poet Verdaguer and his epic poem “L´Atlàntida”. The shape of the dragon corresponds to the positions of the stars in the constellation ´Serpens´.

In this, Ladon was transformed as a punishment for stealing some oranges. Just above the dragon there is an orange tree made of antimony, also referring to the story

Av. de Pedralbes, 7, 08034 Barcelona, Spain

Palau Guell desiigned for Eusebi Guell

In 1886 Eusebi Güell confided Gaudí with building his new house, the Palau Güell. The ´Palau´ is located in Nou de la Rambla street, in the Raval neighborhood. It was built in Art Nouveau style and was the home of the Güell i López family until they moved to Park Güell. With the Palau, Gaudí created a functional place, adapted to the family’s needs, both private and social.

The building is memorable for its innovative use of light and space. Gaudí used a variety of traditional materials (stone, wood, wrought iron, pottery, glass, etc.).

It was declared a historical-artistic monument (in 1969), Cultural Asset of National Interest and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (in 1984). As this was an early work, the building contains the essence of Gaudí’s later works. It´s fundamental to understanding his architecture.

Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

Colonia Guell designed by Eusebi Guell

In 1890 Eusebi Güell moved his textile mill from Sants to Santa Coloma de Cervelló, 20 km outside of Barcelona. Eusebi was a man who cared about the working conditions and well-being of his employees.

Therefore, his idea was to construct an industrial village with facilities that would improve the workers’ wellbeing. The workers were now able to live close to the fabric and have all facilities close.

The village included an athenaeum, a theatre, shops, school and of course a church. Antoni Gaudí was commissioned to design this church, as well as its furniture.

The crypt of the church, constructed from 1908 to 1915, was the only segment that was fully completed. The church is very similar to the Sagrada Familia.

This place was where he tested his ideas for what was to become his biggest project. Colonia Güell is easy to reach and is a very charming place to visit. All the industrial buildings and their details are still intact.

Santa Coloma de Cervelló, 08690, Barcelona, Spain

The most well-known cooperation between Güell and Gaudí would be the iconic Park Güell in the Gracia neighborhood.

The park counts 17 hectares and is one of the largest green places in Barcelona. The original idea with the construction was to create a garden city with 60 houses, markets, a school, and a church. Gaudi wanted to recreate the typical British style of residential neighbourhoods, hence the word ‘Park’ in Park Güell.

Unfortunately, the project was not as lucrative as they hoped for. Mainly because the park was thought to be too far from the city. For this reason, they stopped the works in 1914. Of the 60 planned houses, only two were built: The Casa Larrard for Eusebi Güell, and a watch house that was bought by Gaudí.

He lived here with his father until his move to the Sagrada familia. The park was transformed into a public park by 1922 and remained how it is today. Remarkable aspects of the park are the entrance with the porter’s lodge and porter’s residence, the fence, the gallery of columns, and the big, curly bench with mosaic work.

The park contains beautiful stone constructions, beautiful tiling and premises. The colorful, tiled lizard and the main staircase are the most famous parts of the park.

Park Güell, 08024, Barcelona, Spain

Article by Esther VDB for Say Barcelona

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