Situated much further out from the city that the other Gaudí sites that I’ve written about, Parc Güell seemed no less popular, based on my inability to get a shot of the famous mosaic salamander without someone draping themselves over it for their holiday album.
To be fair, I like to try to find a different way of shooting iconic locations so I didn’t lose too much sleep over it but perhaps the vandals who damaged it with an iron bar in 2007 didn’t feel the same.
The park was originally intended as a housing development mooted by the entrepreneur Count Eusebio Güell and inspired by the English Garden City Movement. Perhaps he should have waited to see how the English took to the concept; only two such cities were built (Letchworth & Welwyn). At Parc Güell only two houses were built, in addition to the existing country house home of the Count, and neither was designed by Gaudí. He did move into one of them and that has now become a museum populated with his works and those of his collaborators. (Entry is not included with the park ticket unfortunately)
Still there is much in the park to enjoy, on a larger scale than the details he has crafted elsewhere, and additionally the garden setting permits the comparison between his work and the natural features that he sought to incorporate.
The main terrace, called The Greek Theatre by some and The Nature Square by others, was intended for public performances and is surrounded by a serpentine bench that provides plenty of seating and yet a modicum of privacy at the same time by creating small booth-like recesses. Naturally this evolved into a public park when the project failed, though in doing so it became difficult to control the numbers onsite and thereby ensure the protection of the structures. It was the intervention of the authorities to make the park open only to those willing to pay for entry that led to the act of vandalism. Whilst the frustration is understandable, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and charging the many international visitors for the privilege is a logical way to fund its preservation.
Many of those features have been photographed from every angle, so the challenge of finding something new is considerable. Visiting early allowed me some different lighting options, but even so the features are immediately recognisable.
So where to find something photogenic but with a hint of originality? In the place that most of the tourists overlook. The two lodges that stand on either side of the main entrance function as gift shop and a venue to display photographs and information on the history of the park. In each case most people are distracted by the contents, or the opportunity to lean out of windows and be photographed by friends or family. They miss the curving lines of plasterwork and window frame in their rush to see the park, and thus presented me with my opportunity…