Palau Güell

A Gaudí Masterpiece in the Ciutat Vella

Antoni Gaudí's Palau Güell at Carrer Nou de la Rambla was built between 1886 and 1890 for the Barcelona industrialist Eusebi Güell, who would become his main patron.

The Palau is considered one of Gaudí's early projects and was designed during his Oriental Period (1883-88) when he was inspired by Middle and Far Eastern Art from India, Persia and Japan as well as Spanish Islamic Art, principally in the mudejar and nassarita styles.

Gaudí was already beginning to develop his particular decorative style and this can be seen in the extensive use of ceramic tiles along with the angled arches, brickwork panels and pavillion domes.

The building is constructed on 7 levels, each of which although fulfilling a different function seems to flow into the previous one, and in the centre of the Palau we find a conical ventilator shaft, which kept the air fresh.

On the roof, there are eight chimneys that shows the beginnings of the signature combination of functionality and decoration that reaches its climax on the roof of La Pedrera.

Gaudí was already beginning to put together a star-studded team of collaborators and for the Palau Güell worked with architect Francesc Berenguer, wrought-iron specialist Joan Oñós, cabinet makers Antoni Oliva and Eudald Puntí, interior decorator Francesc Vidal i Jevellí and painter Aleix Clapés i Puig.


Antoni Gaudí and Eusebi Güell

Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí (shown in the photo) had met in 1878 following the Paris Universal Exposition, where the young architect had exhibited an ornate glass cabinet that had so impressed the industrialist that he got in touch with the sponsors Guanteria Comella as soon as he was back in Barcelona.

At the time, Gaudí was just 26 and Güell 32 and the men immediately hit it off to such an extent that Güell introduced Gaudí to his brother-in-law Claudi López, Marquis of Comillas, who employed him to build a house known as El Capricho in the Cantabrian town of Comillas.

Güell himself employed Gaudí to design and build the gates of the Finca Güell on Avinguda Pedralbes before commissioning him to start work on the Palau Güell in 1885.

Eusebi Güell as a Young Man

Eusebi Güell's father Joan Güell lived at La Rambla, 35-37, very closed to where Eusebi planned to build the Palau and the idea was to finally connect the two buildings. (The photo shows Eusebi Güell around this period.)

From 1883 onwards, Eusebi Güell began to acquire adjoining buildings - numbers 3, 5, 7 and 9 on Carrer Nou de la Rambla and numbers 3,5 and 7 on Carrer Lancaster.

Another motivation for Eusebi Güell also seems to have been outdoing his brother-in-law Claudi López, who owned Palau Moja on La Rambla dels Estudis and was considered one of the finest townhouses on La Rambla.

The Palau Güell is built on a rectangular plot measuring 18 x 22 metres plus an annex of 6 x 20 metres and part of the genius of Gaudí is that the building, particularly from the inside, gives the impression of extensive space whilst occupying a very limited area.

As Carrer Nou de la Rambla is so narrow it is impossible to get a full view of the facade, which consists of three levels.

The photo above shows the model of Palau Güell at Catalunya en Miniatura in Torrelles de Llobregat, where you do get an adequate perspective!

The Facade

The first section of the facade corresponds to the ground and first floor and is of polished stone from El Garraf where Güell had another property, Bodegas Güell.

It features parabolic arches for the main entrances with their latticework wrought iron grills topped curly snakes whose tails form a G.

In between these is another ornate wrought iron decoration featuring a dragon and there is a service entrance on the right.

The entrances are so large because they were designed so that guests could enter on horseback and once inside there is a ramp that leads down to the stables in the basement.

The second level is dominated by the tribune window of the main floor, known as the planta noble, which is supported by 21 corbels and is also of Garraf stone.

The third level corresponds to the third and fourth floors - the third floor features five windows flanked by two balconies whilst the four floor has a series of smaller windows and is topped by parapets.

Inside Palau Güell

The interior of the Palau Güell is designed to balance the public and private life of a figure such as Eusebi Güell and contains reception rooms, family areas and accommodation for the servants.

The ground floor vestibule leads to important areas on the lower levels with the main staircase in the centre, the ramp down to the basement stables at the back and the porters office on one side and the service entrance and lift on the other.

From the first floor hallway, the staircase leads to the central reception area which measures 80 square metres and goes up three floors in middle of the building.

This really is a regal space and all the other rooms lead off it - official reception rooms on the first floor, family bedrooms on the second and the servants' bedrooms in the attic.

One of the finest features is the recently renovated organ in the chapel, which is shown in the photograph above.

It's one of the finest instruments in the country, on a par with any cathedral organ but its location in the relative intimacy of the Palau Güell makes for spectacular organ concerts.

Up On The Roof

The whole experience is crowned by the extensive roof with its magnificently decorated chimneys.

The roof of the Palau Güell is particularly interesting as it's Gaudí's first attempt to turn purely functional features, such as chimneys and air vents, into works of art.

Gaudí was of the opinion that if a feature was necessary, it was worth making attractive and although his most famous roof is the stern La Pedrera, the Palau Güell has an almost fairy-like quality, and is actually much more attractive.

The variety of colours and designs is mesmerising and the roof also gives an excellent view of the tightly-packed rooftops of the rest of El Raval, which in Gaudí's day was probably even less salubrious than it is now.

Watch the Video

As there is so much to describe I suggest you visit the Interactive Palau Güell on the official website or watch the video below.

In the video, you see plenty of shots of the Palau, but the main interview in Catalan is with Antonio González Moreno Navarro, the architect in charge of the renovations, which began in the early 1980s and were completed in 2011.

He makes the important point that the Palau Güell is one of the few buildings that Gaudí actually finished and also that, despite the fact that it was used for other purposes, it suffered very few structural changes.

Although it's not the most famous of Gaudí's works, if you're really interested in Modernisme, the Palau really is an essential visit.

Palau Güell

Palau Güell
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5
08001 Barcelona

Opening Times: 10 am to 8 pm (Summer), 10 am to 5.30 pm (Winter)


Getting There: Liceu Metro - Green L3 Line

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