Antoni Gaudi i Cornet’s (1852 to 1926) unique style can easily be identified by his buildings in the city of Barcelona and at the Park Guell on the outskirts. It is difficult to unpick fully the varied influences that Gaudi drew upon for his creations. However, this post is intended as a brief look at a few of the architectural elements at Park Guell.

Gaudi was living in a place and at a time where the energy of cultural rebirth was in the air. From the late 1880s Catalonia was asserting its own unique identity, having lost its independence for 4 centuries. This renaissance was a cultural and political movement known as Modernisme, of which Art Nouveau was a key factor.

Gaudi had initially absorbed the Gothic Revival before turning his attention to the rising Art Nouveau movement of Europe. As a student he had read Ruskin. He also had read the 2nd volume of Viollet le Duc’s Entretiens sur l’architecture – a key influence on European Art Nouveau.

Taking inspiration from the idea of the English-garden suburb combined with the 18th-C landscaped park, Park Guell was established to become a luxury housing development. The project’s founder was Count Eusebi Guell. His park was sited away and above the city with clean air and close to nature. Unfortunately, at the time the scheme didn’t inspire buyers to come forward and it was halted. I expect it would be a very different prospect today, given the high number of visitors.

Gaudi lived at Park Guell before moving into the workshop of the Sagrada Familia in his final years. At the Park it seems he was exploring how nature, function and form come together.

What struck me was the way Gaudi seemed to love playing with ideas from architectural form, engineering, arts and crafts and nature.

Figure 2: The Greek Theatre – Gaudi’s own take on Greek Doric columns (tilting) with undulating entablature. They support the terrace above. The entablature merges upwards into a curving, undulating bench providing seating for the terrace. The columns are hollow, enabling drainage.

Figure 3: Vault of the Greek Theatre – Glass mosaic and glazed tile fragments. The use of brightly coloured ceramic tiles in the Iberian Peninsula was introduced by the Arabs.

Figure 4: Part of the long line of undulating benches on the terrace above the Greek Theatre, decorated with glass mosaic & glazed tile fragments.

Figure 5: Gate at Park Guell – Gaudi’s father had been a coppersmith and taught him the skills of metalworking.

Figure 6: From Greek Antiquity comes the caryatid – a column substitute in the shape of a draped female such as those of the south porch of the Erechtheion (temple of the Acropolis, Athens – c. 421-407 BC). A caryatid who carries a basket on her head is known as a canephora. (Stevens Curl, p. 152). Here Gaudi appears to have taken the idea of a proud Catalonian peasant woman, with rolled-up sleeves and one arm supporting her basket with the other resting on her right hip.


















Figure 7: Viaduct – Gaudi takes architectural elements to merge form into the landscape. Again the 18th-C landscaped park comes into mind with temples and grottos appearing. With this viaduct he has reimagined supporting columns into palm tree-like forms constructed of the rock of the area – from nature comes form!

















Stevens Curl, James & Susan Wilson, The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture, 3rd Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 152

Watkin, David, A History of Western Architecture, 6th Ed. (London: Lawrence King Publishing, 2015), pp. 556-564