The Palau Güell is a building designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí, the greatest representative of Catalan modernism, between 1886 and 1890. The palace is located at Carrer Nou de la Rambla no. 3-5 of Barcelona, in the Raval district. The Barcelona businessman and patron Eusebi Güell commissioned his friend Gaudí to build his family residence, which was also to be a meeting point for the bourgeoisie at the time. It is the first major work that Eusebi Güell entrusted to Gaudí and stands out for how the architect conceived space and light.
The Palau Güell is a magnificent example of domestic architecture in the context of modernism. It was the home of the Güell i López family until it moved to Parc Güell. The building stands out for its innovative conception of space and light. Gaudí introduced varied solutions to the Palau Güell based on very personal approaches and created exceptional forms of expression based on his imagination, using traditional noble materials (stone, wood, wrought iron, ceramics, glass, etc.).
The Palau Güell is one of the first important commissions that Gaudí received at the beginning of his career. Eusebi Güell (industrialist, politician and patron) wanted Gaudí to build this peculiar urban palace for him as an extension of the family house he had on the Rambla de Barcelona. Gaudí knew how to design a functional palace adapted to the needs of the family’s private life and the intense social and cultural life it hosted.
This work belongs to the Orientalist period of Gaudí (1883-1888), a period in which the architect made a series of works inspired by the art of the Near and Far East (India, Persia, Japan), as well as the l ‘ Islamic art Hispanic mainly art Moorish and Moorish. Gaudí employed profusely decorated in tile pottery, as well as parabolic arches, ledges of brick seen and shots in a bandstand or dome.
The building is structured on several functionally differentiated floors, with an entrance in the shape of a catenary arch of impressive dimensions and a distribution of the rooms around the central hall, the main axis and backbone of the building.
The home is centered around the main room for entertaining high society guests. Guests entered the home in horse-drawn carriages through the front iron gates, which featured a parabolic arch and intricate patterns of forged ironwork resembling seaweed and in some parts a horsewhip. Animals could be taken down a ramp and kept in the livery stable in the basement where the servants resided, while the guests went up the stairs to the receiving room. The ornate walls and ceilings of the receiving room disguised small viewing windows high on the walls where the owners of the home could view their guests from the upper floor and get a “sneak peek” before greeting them, in case they needed to adjust their attire accordingly.
The main party room has a high ceiling with small holes near the top where lanterns were hung at night from the outside to give the appearance of a starlit sky.
There are twenty chimneys on the roof that, far from being treated as simple chimneys, Gaudí conceived of them as sculptures. With this, he began a way of designing the chimneys that he would develop in his later works, until he achieved spectacular results at Casa Milà.
Gaudí had for its construction the collaboration of the architect of his workshop Francesc Berenguer, the master blacksmith Joan Oñós, the cabinetmaking of Antoni Oliva and Eudald Puntí, the decoration, stained glass and furniture of Francesc Vidal and Jevellí and the painting of Aleix Clapés i Puig.
It was declared a historic-artistic monument by Spain in 1969, as well as a cultural asset of national interest, and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The building, as a work of youth, contains the essence of the later work by Gaudí and is essential to understand its architecture.
The nineteenth century in Spain was characterized by great political and economic instability. The continuous military pronouncements, dethronements, social revolutions and Carlist wars had generated as much uncertainty as effervescent idealisms. In 1888, the Universal Exposition took place, which was a point and a part for Barcelona and for the whole of Catalonia. With the international projection, the emphasis was shifted to economic initiatives, the triumph of protectionism, peace and prosperity. In Catalonia begins a period known as the Gold Rush in which ferment a feeling that Catalan will materialize with the Spanish crisis of 1898. After 1888 Catalonia began to abandon provincialism and develop a political Catalanism. It is in this context of economic growth aided by protectionism and emerging Catalanism among the wealthy classes where the figure of Eusebi Güell is located who wants to make history and be an emblematic element, as well as his own residence where he had to meet the best of Barcelona culturally and politically influential.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852 – 1926) was a Catalan architect recognized internationally as one of the most important geniuses in his discipline. From childhood Gaudí was an attentive observer of nature, whose shape, colors and geometry attracted him. He worked on behalf of private clients to create his private mansions such as Casa Vicens or Palau Güell, but some of his clients, members of the emerging bourgeoisie at the turn of the century, commissioned him from multi-family buildings, three of them in Barcelona: the Calvet house, the Batlló house and theMilan house. The evolution of Antoni Gaudí’s work starts from the beginnings of Gothic to transcend and abandon the Neo-Gothic and create a work of his own style that is essential for modern architecture and is considered the main exponent of Catalan Modernism. Geometric and structural components play a central role in his work. The Sagrada Família, La Pedrera, Parc Güell, Colònia Güell and Casa Batlló represent key figures in modernist architecture in Barcelona.
Gaudí excelled in the use of all the applied arts for the decoration of his buildings and the recovery for the ornamentation of the old mosaic transformed by Gaudí into trencadís, turned into a new technique. He exhibited an important exchange of values closely associated with the cultural and artistic currents of his time, represented in Catalan Modernism. It anticipated and influenced many of the forms and techniques that would influence the development of modern construction in the twentieth century. Gaudí’s work represents the genius of the architect, expressing particular spatial qualities and the plasticity of the undulating lines and the harmony of colors and materials, both in the architectural structures and in the sculpted elements.
Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, count of Güell (1846-1918) was one of the most important industrialists in Catalonia at the time, as well as a politician, scientist and writer. He was the son of Joan Güell i Ferrer (1800-1872), an Indian who had made an immense fortune in Cuba and who, on his return, was the promoter of various business initiatives in Barcelona, such as the Vapor Vell factory that he managed. the exclusive one of the manufacture of corduroy in Spain. After studying Law,Economy and Applied Sciences in Barcelona, France and England, together with Ferran Alsina, he founded the Güell colony, a workers’ colony dedicated to the textile industry. He was involved in politics and in broad cultural sectors. In 1875 he was elected councilor of Barcelona City Council, in 1878 provincial deputy, and served as senator of the Kingdom. Very committed to Catalan culture, he was president of the Barcelona Floral Games (1900) and a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Sant Jordi, as well as president of the Catalan Center.
Joan Güell’s family had their residence on Rambla no. 35-37, very close to the estate where the Palau Güell would be built with which it was touched from the back. This building and the neighboring Fradera house, which occupies the entire corner of La Rambla and Carrer Nou de la Rambla, were built in the 1850s by Pere Casany and renovated in a classicist language in 1865, by the same architect, on request. of Joan Güell. These buildings are neighbors of the Teatre Principal and, with these reforms, revitalized an area frequented by the Catalan bourgeoisie in the second half of the nineteenth century. When Eusebi Güell and Isabel López Bruthey married in 1871 and settled in the palace of the count of Fonollar in Portaferrissa street no. 7, which had been reformed by Elias Rogent. In 1884 they left for their father’s estate in the lower part of the Rambla, while the acquisition of land where the Palau Güell was to be built began.
In 1883, Eusebi Güell acquired the building at number 3 on Carrer Nou de la Rambla from Maria Toll i Serra for 196,000 pesetas and, in 1886, bought number 5 from the Boada Mas family, an estate where the Carmelite convent had been. before confiscation. Once the construction of the palace began, Güell continued to acquire neighboring estates in order to preserve the surroundings of the new intermediate building. Thus, in 1887 he bought number 3 of Lancaster Street, in 1894 he incorporated number 9 of Nou de la Rambla and later the estates of Lancaster 5 and 7.
Güell’s project was to build a new residence connected by an inner courtyard with the family estate on La Rambla. The design of the Palau Güell followed the tradition of large Catalan stately homes, such as those on Carrer Montcada. The industrialist’s idea was for the new building to match or surpass the Palau Moja, located on the Rambla at the corner of Carrer de Portaferrissa, which was owned by his brother-in-law, Claudi López, second Marquis of Comillas.
In 1885 Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, first count of Güell, commissioned Antoni Gaudí to design the building that was to be his private residence. The industrialist met Gaudí in 1878, after being admired with the display case for the Guanteria Comella that the architect exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Since then he began a long friendship and a fruitful professional relationship, where the industrialist was the main patron of the architect. Thanks to this its last name is known internationally, with works like the Crypt of the Güell Colony, the Güell Cellar, the Güell Pavilionsor Park Güell, in addition to the Palau.
The final project is dated June 10, 1886 and the application to the City Council for a building permit was made on July 12, 1886 by Eusebi Güell. The municipal architect, Antoni Rovira i Trias, presented a negative report because the project did not comply with article 25 of the Municipal Ordinances, which stipulated that the grandstands on the facades must be made of iron and glass., in front of the one of chopped stone presented / displayed by Gaudí. But this report was rejected by the Development Commission (on July 24), possibly influenced by Güell himself, who had numerous contacts in the City Council. Permission was finally granted on 27 July, and on 12 August Güell and Gaudí signed the notice. On October 15, permission was requested for the demolition of No. 7 Nou de la Rambla, which was granted on October 23 and ratified by the Development Commission on November 6. Finally, on November 12, the building permit was issued.
Although the work on the interior decoration lasted until 1890, the building was inaugurated in 1888, the date on the façade, coinciding with the Universal Exhibition held in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona. On the occasion of this event, personalities such as Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Habsburg, King Humbert I of Italy and the President of the United States Grover Cleveland visited the Güell Palace. Mr. Güell was so proud of his building that he commissioned Joan Alsina i Arús to make some plans to present at the exhibition dedicated to Gaudí at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1910. Later, in 1895, a series of reforms were carried out in which Gaudí no longer took part, where new chimneys were added, and decorative elements in wrought iron with the initials I and E were installed in Eusebi Güell’s bedroom. (Isabel and Eusebi) where the date of 1895 is stated.
Gaudí led a large team of technicians and craftsmen, such as the architects Francesc Berenguer and Camil Oliveras. Berenguer, who was an inseparable collaborator of Gaudí in many of his works and made many buildings in the Colònia Güell, drew more than twenty different solutions for the façade of the Palau Güell. On the other hand, Güell had already hired Oliveras for the interior renovations of his residence in the Fonollar Palace and the Palau Güell will also participate in his role as a decorator. Francesc Vidal i Jevellí also took part in this functionwho also designed the furniture and part of the stained glass windows, which would be manufactured in the Pilgrim Workshop. Vidal had one of the most important eclectic furniture workshops that Gaudí had gone to to acquire the technical knowledge that allowed him to design his furniture.
The builder and person in charge of the stone works was Agustí Massip, a builder trusted by the Güells and Gaudí with whom he had collaborated in the Episcopal Palace of Astorga and in Parc Güell. The marble workers were the Ventura brothers, who had a workshop in Barcelona dedicated mainly to funerary monuments. The metal structures are the work of Tallers Torras, authors of the scaffolding to build the monument to Columbus and the metal structure of the Palau de Belles Arts in Barcelona of the 1888 Universal Exhibition. The artistic forging works were the responsibility of Joan Oñós and his collaborators Salvador Gabarró and the brothers Lluís and Josep Badia i Miarnau. Oñós was a regular collaborator of Gaudí and was the author of the famous fence of the Güell estate with the dragon, the grate with palm leaves of the Vicens house and the latches of the Calvet house. The participation of the Badia brothers took shape in the forging of the main entrance, doors and shield.
As for the many wooden works, the cabinetmakers were Antoni Oliva, Julià Soley and Eudald Puntí. Puntí had been the author of Gaudí’s work table which was burned in the Sagrada Família in 1936. In the artistic field, he also had the collaboration of the painters Aleix Clapés, Ramon Tusquets and Alexandre de Riquer who made a delicate polychrome alabaster panel for the fireplace, and the sculptors Joan Flotats and Rossend Nobas. The ceramic pieces are from the Pujol i Bausis factory.
Eusebi Güell lived in the palace until 1906, when he moved to Casa Larrard, in Parc Güell, where he lived until his death in 1918. The Palau Güell was inherited by Güell’s widow, Isabel López Bru (daughter of the Marquis of Comillas) and later his daughters Maria Lluïsa and Mercè Güell i López. During the Civil War he served as a police station. In 1944, an American millionaire wanted to buy it, to take it to his country stone by stone, but it was finally acquired by the Diputació de Barcelona., in exchange for a life pension for Mercè Güell, who also made it a condition that the building was never modified and that it be used for a cultural purpose. In 1952, the Association of Friends of Gaudí was installed in the Palau Güell, until its transfer in 1968 to the Gaudí House-Museum in Parc Güell. The Theater Museum was also established in the palace in 1954, until its relocation in 1996.
As a cultural facility
On May 25, 1945, the Palau Güell was ceded to the Diputació de Barcelona, which will become its owner and holder until today. The Diputació de Barcelona (which has owned the Palau Güell since 1945, the year in which it was ceded to it by the heirs of the Güell family) takes care of the conservation of the building and manages it as a museum facility. After a long process of comprehensive restoration that has allowed the building to reach us today in all its initial splendor, in May 2011 the Palau Güell opened its doors to the public.
In this new stage, the Palau Güell presents a renewed vision of its collections, its museographic discourse and the services it offers to visitors, based on a rigorous approach of absolute fidelity to the original. Assuming responsibility for transmitting Gaudí’s work, the Palau Güell wants to include a series of informative, dissemination and accessibility proposals, as well as a program of concerts, activities designed for different audiences and new forms of presentation and interpretation of the building. The museum also continues to work, as a public body, in its commitment to heritage conservation, with the will, too, to face the main challenges of research and education.
Once the palace was acquired by the Diputació de Barcelona, restoration work began in 1945 under the direction of the architect Manuel Baldrich i Tibau. This made it possible to install the Institut del Teatre and its museum. The carpentry, glass and mirrors were repaired in these works. The stained glass windows in the grandstand facing the street were cleaned and rebuilt and some rusty wrought iron elements were restored. The electrical installation was also renovated and some lamps were modernized.
In 1974 the Palau Güell was converted into a Museum of Cinema and the Performing Arts, and from 1976, into a Center for the Study and Documentation of the Performing Arts and Communication. For these purposes, between 1971 and 1979 it was the subject of restoration and adaptation interventions under the direction of the architects Camil Pallàs i Arisa and Jordi Querol i Piera.
In 1982, a new restoration campaign was undertaken by the Cataloging and Conservation of Monuments Service of the Diputació de Barcelona, which lasted until 2002, culminating in the inauguration of the exhibition “Life in the Palace: Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí, two men and a project ». The restoration campaign was carried out in several phases and under the direction of Antoni González and Pau Carbó.
In 1992, the Diputació de Barcelona acquired several pieces of furniture, and in 2002 it exchanged views with the Güell family, which gave more body to the original set of furniture in the building. In 1996 the Museu del Teatre moved to its Palau Güell. From 1997 to 2004, the Palau Güell organized guided tours of the building.
In May 2004, on the occasion of a study of the building carried out by the Local Architectural Heritage Service (SPAL) in collaboration with two Catalan public universities, it was decided to close the Palace to assess the state of conservation of the building, materials and construction systems, and undertake a comprehensive restoration process that culminated in 2011. In 2008 the Palau Güell was partially reopened to the public (limited access to the basement and part of the ground floor).
Between 2002 and 2011, the Diputació de Barcelona carried out a comprehensive restoration of the building based on a systematic study of the evolution of the subsoil and materials over its 125 years of existence. The restoration has focused on the recovery of the formal values and original spaces, as well as the treatment of color and light that Gaudí had designed for the building.
The reopening of the Palau Güell took place in May 2011. In 2012, the process of building a new organ was completed, built in Collbató by the organist Albert Blancafort, consisting of 1386 tubes, with 22 registers, two 56-note manual keyboards and a 30-note pedal keyboard.
The Palau Güell stands on a plot of almost rectangular floor, 18 x 22 meters, with an annex building in the southwest, 6 x 20 m. The structure is based on the walls of the facades, made of natural stone, as well as the partition walls, made of brick, as well as brick pillars in the basement and stone on the other floors. The dividing wall on the east side was originally a exposed façade, until it was plastered and painted with a fresco by Aleix Clapés representing Hercules looking for the Hesperides, inspired by the poem L’Atlàntida by Jacint Verdaguer, now gone.
The building consists of a total of seven floors between basement for stables, ground floor with entrance hall, porter, garage and various service areas, mezzanine for the administrative area, noble floor for the social area, second floor for the private area (bedrooms, bathrooms), third with the service area, kitchen and laundry, and roof terrace.
The basic characteristic of the building is the richness of spaces, with fluid routes and an independence in the distribution of each plant that produce an appearance of a built volume quite big for the limited surface of the lot.
The general design follows the lines of his creations of that time, marked by the oriental style applied to the design of his works. This palace culminates a period of predominance of Arab, Byzantine or Mudejar- inspired forms, with works such as the Casa Vicens, the Güell Pavilions and El Capricho de Comillas (Cantabria). Gaudí applies a transitional style with Gothic compositional elements with solutions reminiscent of certain Venetian palaces.
Gaudí carefully designed both the exterior and the interior of the palace, with a sumptuous Mudejar-style decoration, where the ceilings with wooden and iron coffering stand out. Gaudí also studied efficiently all the technical and structural solutions of the building, taking care in the greatest detail aspects such as lighting, ventilation or acoustic insulation of the exterior.
Analyzed from a strictly constructive aspect, the Palau Güell represents one of the most complex points of Gaudí’s production, where many of the geometric and constructive resources that the architect will use in the future come together. As if Gaudí had wanted to experiment, completely new elements are found trying out more suitable construction procedures for each case.
The delicate modeling of the transition surfaces between the parabolic arches and the marble columns of the main room clearly anticipates the plastic treatment of some of his later works such as the Milan house and, in particular, the work with crooked surfaces of the vaults of the Colònia Güell and the Sagrada Família. The type of treatment and formal generation of the domes and chimneys on the roof of the palace have, at the same time, a clear antecedent in the Vicens house and the Güell estate, but it will be projected even more strongly in the Milà and Batlló houses, reaching their maximum plastic expression in the shapes of Parc Güell.
Constructive and decorative elements
Construction began in July 1886 with limestone from the Garraf quarries of the same owner with whom the columns were made with hyperboloidal capitals. The façade contains bold wrought iron elements instead of the then-running wooden doors. It is structured in three levels well differentiated by its composition. The lower corresponds to the ground floor and mezzanine and consists of two rows of vertical windows protected by wrought iron grilles. On the right is the service area with its own access.
The two doors of the main entrance located in the center of the facade, have form of parabolic arc which, in its part superior, is occupied by a wrought iron grate with a dense zigzag made with handrails of corner representing symbolically the tail of two serpents descending — held by star-headed nails — along the perimeter of the arch to ground level where they raise their head. In the center of the zigzag, which occupies the upper third, is a shield formed by the letter “G”, by Güell in the middle of a lyre made of plant shapes.
The bottom is a double-leaf door made with a wrought iron lattice with hand-screwed handrails that allows view from the inside out, but not the other way around. These two sheets open to allow access for vehicles, carriages when built. In the middle of these two doors is a small door for access by people.
Between the two arches there is a high window with a worked grille with floral decoration that corresponds to the goalkeeper’s cabin from where the outside can be seen. Above this window is one of the most unique and complex wrought iron sculptures produced by the Oñós team. The four bars of the coat of arms of Catalonia surround a column made of metal mesh that sits on a floral style base, an extension of the branches that decorate the porter’s window, made of iron. The upper part of the column is topped by a helmet on which he places a phoenix with outstretched wings and a profile head, a symbol of the Renaissance. The whole set is surrounded by corrugated metal ribbonswhiplash and glues to the wall that simulate flames. The legend of the bird rising from its own ashes must be interpreted as a symbol of the owner and the recovery of industry, trade and navigation, Güell’s business.
The finishing of the stone of these first two plants is cut to saw and polished, a common practice in the actuality, but that at that time supposed to import a machine considered of high technology and that made sensation.
The second level of the façade corresponds to the main floor and the upper mezzanine, also with polished stone. The grandstand supported by 21 corbels at the bottom and 12 at the top stands out. At this level the window closures are metal doors.
The third level corresponds to the second and third floor, in this case in chopped stone. On the second floor there are five windows in the central part flanked by two balconies that end the upper part of the grandstands on the lower floor. The windows on the second floor are made of wood with bronze fittings, and those on the third floor, also made of wood, are smaller.
The upper part, roof railing, is finished with battlements. Located in the central battlement is the date of completion, 1888, made with a spelling reminiscent of a ball of wool.
The rear façade is made entirely of punched stone, like the upper level of the main façade, and is divided into two levels. The lower one reaches the main floor and highlights the large central grandstand next to which there are two metal windows with tilting windows on the vertical axis. At the ends there are two stairs that allow access to the rear terrace from the inside. At the top of this level is a row of windows with booklet shutters that communicate with the hallway at the top of the dining room. The upper level covers the second and third floors. The two levels are separated by a stone impost. The windows on the second floor correspond to the bedrooms and the central part, above the grandstand, there is a balcony covered by a kind of iron and wood umbrella that is a continuation of the wooden decoration of the grandstand. The façade ends at roof level with a railing made of horizontal iron pipes fastened with wrought iron feet. Perpendicular to this façade, you can see the façade of the annex building where the service areas were located. It is finished in exposed stone and the shape of its windows changes on each floor: a large window on the first floor, a series of windows finished in a triangular arch at the level corresponding to the mezzanine of the main building, the same structure is it is at the level of the second floor but with booklet shutters and a small eavesto protect it from water, lastly at the level of the third floor there are only two large windows wider than those on the lower floors, but also finished in a triangular arch.
It is an element of rounded shapes that integrates smoothly into the façade. It is topped at the top by a large stone slab that forms the floor of the second floor balcony, under which the grandstand is structured in three different volumes. The upper body consists of a wooden enclosure on an iron structure combined with yellow ceramic pieces that create a kind of fairing that gives tightness to the whole. The central part is the most prominent and is located at the level of the dining room. It consists of twelve windows finished in polygonal arches creating a void with the upper body. A finish of large ceramic pieces, of the same yellow color as those on the upper floor, outlines these windows and the empty spaces mentioned, creating an undulating silhouette where the ridges alternate in the upper parts and thegargoyles at the bottom, in a succession reminiscent of a snake or some fantastic monster. The original pieces were produced in the Pujol i Bausis factory, although there are currently reproductions made in the 1992 restoration. The fit of the grandstand with the stone of the façade is topped by a ceramic checkerboard in blue tones.
Finally, the lower part is formed by the large iron and wooden corbels that support it with the same blue ceramic finish of the central body.
The interior of the building is designed to comfortably harmonize public and private life, the family area and the service area. To do this, the lobby on the ground floor connects optimally with the various parts of the building: in the center is the main staircase, in the background the garage and access to the basement, on the east side the goal and on the west the service staircase and elevator. Following the main staircase, you first come to the mezzanine, where to the right was Mr. Güell’s office, plus the library and the administration and archive rooms; and to the left a hall and a rest room.
The interior of the building is designed to comfortably harmonize public and private life, the family area and the service area. For this reason, the lobby on the ground floor connects optimally with the various parts of the building: in the center is the main staircase, in the background the garage and access to the basement, on the east side the gate and the west the service staircase and the elevator.
Access from the two large portals on Carrer Nou de la Rambla allowed carriages to enter. The floor of the two entrances is made of slabs of wood to reduce the impact sound of horses and vehicles to circulate. At the bottom of the plant were the garages and the ramp for lowering the horses into the basement. In the middle of the two entrances, in the center of the estate, is the main staircase flanked by false columns that give it solemnity. On the left side of the ladder is a small boulder to get on the horse. At the foot of the stairs, there is a large space, as if it were a kind of lobby once they got out of the cars. Gaudí removed two load pillars and replaced them with onebeam topped by voussoirs. A solution that improved the visual composition but that came to complicate the delicate structural game of the building.
Gaudí applied his inventiveness to the constructive and decorative elements of the palace. The basement, where the paintings were housed, shows the expressive capacity of the brick forming fungiform capital pillars that gently connect with the vaults, also made of brick. Of the twenty long columns in the basement, two do not support any load from the upper floors, as the change in the design of the lobby left them without structural function.
The architect applied the technique of channeling bricks to the entire basement and to the openings of the service façade following the line started at Casa Vicens and the Güell estate and which he would continue to develop at the Teresianes school and the crypt of the Colònia Güell.
To access from the ground floor there is a slightly sloping ramp for horses and a spiral staircase for people that starts from below the main staircase to the ground floor.
The main function of this plant was to make a stable for horses, but it also had the functions of a coal mine, a warehouse and a cistern to store rainwater from the inner courtyard of the palace. Due to its function, Gaudí made sure to guarantee good ventilation through ventilation holes that open onto the courtyard and the ground floor.
Following the main staircase you first reach the mezzanine, where on the right was Mr. Güell’s office, plus the library and the administration and archive rooms, and on the left a lobby and a rest room.
From the lobby of the mezzanine starts the staircase of honor, which gives access to the main floor, organized around a large central hall of 80 m 2, which has a height of three floors (17.5 meters). This entrance hall is the central nucleus of the building, being surrounded by the main rooms of the palace, and assumes a unique compositional prominence emulating an atrium of Mediterranean domus.
It stands out for its roof with a double dome with a paraboloid profile on the inside and a conical one on the outside, a solution typical of Eastern Roman art. The dome sits on equally parabolic toral arches, and is perforated with small oculus that allows the passage of natural light, has a coating of reddish alabaster plates, hexagonal in shape. When accessing by the stairs of honor a first crujía appears(north) which gives access to four spaces: a first access lobby, the access room to the living room (or Lost Steps Room), the visiting room and a dressing table for ladies. These spaces are delimited by a gallery of arches that corresponds to the tribune of the outer facade, where Gaudí used an original system of catenary arches and columns with capital is hyperboloidal, style not used neither before nor after Gaudí.
Next is the large central hall, which was the most richly decorated, with furniture and works of art of great value, which featured several busts representing Joan Güell, Antonio López (Marquis of Comillas) and Isabel López Bru, work of Rossend Nobas. There were also several oil paintings by Aleix Clapés: Saint Elizabeth Queen of Hungary giving her crown to a poor man, Peasant family praying at the foot of a thermal cross, Girls playing and a portrait of Jaume Balmes. Of the furniture stands out an alabaster sofa-sofa and brocade designed by Gaudí, and a chair called Phebus, by Vidal i Jevellí, in a flaming neo-Gothic style, inspired by Bavarian cabinetmaking.
On either side of the great hall were: a chapel-oratory (on the right), decorated with paintings by the twelve apostles, by Aleix Clapés, and an image of the Immaculate Conception on the altar, by Joan Flotats, which it was destroyed in 1936; and an organ on the left, by Aquilino Amezua, which had two 56-note manual keyboards and a 27-foot pedal keyboard, with full couplings, tremolo, expression, and tongue-in-cheek cancellers. designed by Gaudí, it is located on the main floor, while the ventilation is two floors higher, under the dome. The organ was damaged during the Civil War, a period in which the metal was smelted and restored in 2012.
From the east side of the hall there is a staircase that leads to the elevated viewpoint of the main floor -since it has a height of 6.5 meters-, where the musicians used to be located in the parties and events organized by the Güell; from here you access a small room that was used as an office by Àngel Guimerà when the Institut del Teatre was installed in the palace. At the south end of the main floor was the dining room – where a large fireplace designed by Camil Oliveras stands out – and the Confidence Room, which was used for meetings and piano concerts, from here you can access the patio terrace. of island. In the part corresponding to the annex building on the main floor was the billiard and drawing room, while a corridor connected with the house on the Rambla that Güell inherited from his father, where a small museum was located that housed antiques and works of art collected by the Güells.
From the grandstand in the main living room starts a staircase that gives access to the second floor, where on the north side there was a study room and several bedrooms, in the center a room and toilets, and on the south side the master bedroom, several more to the sides and the bathroom. The central room stands out, decorated with a cycle of paintings relating to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary -as a tribute to Güell’s wife, Isabel López Bru-, the work of Alexandre de Riquer. It should be noted that the master bedroom has a balcony that corresponds to the brise-soleil of the rear facade. Of the furniture of this floor they emphasize a chaise longue style Second French Empire, located in the master bedroom and used to be used by Güell’s wife, and a dressing table belonging to Isabel Güell, both designed by Gaudí. Finally, on the third floor (or attic) were the service rooms, the kitchen and the laundry rooms, while a last section of the service staircase leads to the roof.
The building is topped by a 481 m² roof, with four levels: the largest corresponds to the central body of the building, with 14 chimneys, four shell-shaped lunettes, skylights and the lantern corresponding to the central dome; going up six steps there is a second level belonging to the annex of the building, with six more chimneys; the third level is in the service stairwell; and the fourth, on the organ box, from which the interior of the lantern was accessed through a walkway.
On the roof Gaudí developed an aesthetic program with the chimneys distributed around the large central needle that acts as a skylight in the central space that, in the form of a covered atrium, crosses the upper floors starting from the ceiling of the main hall.
The chimneys stand out on the one hand, which, far from treating them as annoying elements, Gaudí gave them a decorative character. With this, he began a way of designing the fireplaces that he would develop in his subsequent works, until he reached spectacular solutions such as Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. In total there are 20 chimneys, built in brick and – except for six left in exposed work – covered with ceramic (of the trencadís type, common in Gaudí’s works), glass, marble or porcelain, with varied designs in bright colors. They generally have frusto-conical or truncated pyramidal shapes, although there are some prismatic-pyramidal or cylindrical-conical, with conical or spherical capitals, with rhombuses or triangles, spiral or pyramid. The ceramics used for the fireplaces were from the Pujol i Bausis factory in Esplugas de Llobregat, one of the most prestigious of the time and which had close contacts with the majority of modernist architects. These fireplaces were restored between 1990 and 1994, with the collaboration of various artists, such as the ceramicist Joan Gardy Artigas, the sculptor Joan Mora, and the painters Robert Llimós and Gustavo Carbó Berthold.. They tried to follow the original designs faithfully, but at some point where they had been lost, they resorted to their own designs by these artists, generally following the same style, with only a small reference to contemporary times: the Olympic Games logo. 1992 Barcelona with your pet (Cobi) on the south face of the fireplace number 9.
Also noteworthy is the high lantern-shaped spire that is the outer finish of the dome of the central hall, also made of ceramic and topped with a weather vane – iron lightning rod, containing the compass rose, a bat and a Greek cross. Conical in shape, it is 16 meters high, and in its central part it has eight windows that give light to the interior of the building, one of which serves as a door and is connected to the terrace by a walkway. A little higher up are twelve diamond-shaped openings, which allow ventilation of the interior, as well as maintain thermal balance.
In 1992, the Diputació de Barcelona acquired part of the original furniture from the Güell family. Specifically, the table and twelve chairs in the living room; some trunks and armchairs.
These themed itineraries through the Palau Güell will allow you to discover varied and often unusual aspects of the building, as well as different visions and perspectives that allow parallel readings about the Palau Güell, daily life in the palace and its protagonists.
The Palau Güell, a universe of melody.
This sound itinerary will allow you to get to know the musical richness of the Palau Güell, a building in which architecture and music merge. Gaudí designed a central living room isolated from the outside environment and covered by a magnificent dome with a great sound. The guests at the numerous musical performances that took place at the Palau Güell were overwhelmed by the sounds of the organ, the orchestra and the voices of the choir, which went up and down the space under the dome.
The central hall, space and sound: Music and the arts were an important part of the Güell family’s life. Gaudí took this into account when he created the central hall, a unique and ideal atmosphere for hosting musical performances.
Amezua’s pipe organ: In the central hall of the Palau Güell, Gaudí designed a space in the service of music, with an organ performed in the workshop of Aquilino Amezua.
The grandstand of the musicians: The musicians’ grandstand or miranda is the space where the orchestra was installed on concert days. It is a kind of elevated tribune, overlooking the hall.
The high galleries for choral ensembles: At the height of the second floor, there is a gallery of windows overlooking the central living room. This gallery of windows, which encircles the dome, served as a grandstand for choirs, so that the acoustic effect was favored, as music arose from everywhere, a completely Wagnerian conception.
The new organ of the Palau Güell: The restored and enlarged organ of the Palau Güell, built in the Blancafort Workshops in Collbató, is located in a gallery under the dome.
The Güell family’s trusted room and passion for music: In the confidence room on the main floor is a half-grand piano, from the French brand Érard, similar to the one the Güells had and which was used in rehearsals and concerts.
The palace in 1900: a tour of the past
In this tour we suggest you take a trip to the past to discover what the Palau Güell was like at the beginning of the 20th century and how the Güell family lived there. From old photographs from different archives and private collections we will see a palace in all its splendor.
A family of the Catalan bourgeoisie: the Güells: Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (Barcelona, 1846- Barcelona, 1918) married Isabel López Bru, daughter of the Marquis of Comillas, with whom he had ten children.
We enter the Palau Güell: The Palau Güell is an inward-facing building. The grandeur of its doors and austere façade hide an interior of great richness in decoration and full of beautiful nooks and crannies.
Inside the palace: the entrance: Two closed parabolic arches with original wrought iron grilles give entrance to the building.
The economic activity of Eusebi Güell in the palace: On the mezzanine floor of the Palau Güell, Eusebi Güell had his office and other administrative and archival units, from where he managed and administered his business.
The noble floor, a space for social and family life: The main floor is the most distinguished part of the building. Different old photographs show the interior decoration of this plant at the time when the Güell family lived there. It is a rich decoration that includes curtains, furniture, tapestries, lanterns, carpets, sculptures, paintings, musical instruments and many other decorative elements.
The privacy of a family in a palace: Antoni Gaudí, when building the palace, has a unitary and organic conception of the activities carried out in the building, and combines its social and family life. Thus, on the second floor we find the most private area of the family, with bedrooms, bathrooms and toilets and the study room.
The furniture designed by Gaudí for the Palau Güell
In this itinerary you will discover a little-known facet of Gaudí: that of a furniture designer. We will stop to look at some of the furniture, both built-in and free, that Gaudí designed for the Palau Güell.
The sofa seat in the central living room: Gaudí merged furniture and decoration from a very young age. A good example of this is the sofa seat, which he designed for the central living room of the Palau Güell, a long marble seat attached or recessed to the wall, which had upholstered cushions.
The bench seat of the grandstand room: The mastery of shapes and materials led Gaudí to create this bench seat, with surprising precision. It is a unique piece: a round-shaped bench that is located in the grandstand or smoking room, close to the dining room.
Isabel López’s chaise longue: The chaise longue designed by Gaudí in 1895 is elegant and ambiguous. It was located in the bedroom of Isabel López i Bru, wife of Eusebi Güell. The back of the piece of furniture is made of silk damask with a Rococo-inspired floral pattern and a fringe of trimmings. As for the seat, it was originally upholstered in cowhide, although it was later replaced by a beige velvet upholstery. Gaudí incorporated an iron structure into this chaise longue, a material unusual at the time in the world of furniture production, and dispensed with the wood that was traditionally used. The position that the body takes and the height to be able to rest the legs denote the intimacy that this piece offers.
Isabel Güell’s dressing table: Gaudí drew and designed an original dressing table for the eldest daughter of Eusebi Güell, Isabel Güell i López. This dressing table, approximately from 1889, was located, according to the old photographs, in his bedroom. Away from the dominant aesthetic canons of the time, the aesthetics of this dressing table were relatively revolutionary. It is a rare and magnificent model of his style. Supported by five contoured footprints, the dressing table consists of a decanted mirror that rests on two cylindrical cabinets and a table covered with a protective glass (just in case a bottle was spilled). Attached to the furniture is a small stool that serves as a shoe for the complicated women’s ankle boots of the time. This function of the binder reinforces its practical character and demonstrates Gaudí’s concern for the comfort and usefulness of furniture.
Cat and mouse chairs: The cat and mouse chairs are a design by Gaudí for the Palau Güell. They are upholstered chairs in red velvet with trimmings. The most curious part of the piece of furniture is the two cat shells (found on the wrought-iron plant stem that connects the backrest to the seat), which are lurking for three mice sticking their heads out between the flock. The footprints of the chairs are grapes and vine leaves, forged. As can be seen in the old photographs, two copies of these chairs were in the lost steps room on the main floor. All Gaudí furniture is endowed with an expressive, visionary and dynamic design: it is living and talking furniture, of portable dimensions, conceived as true objects of art where the values of ingenuity and utility are very powerful.
We go up to the roof: the fantastic fireplaces
This itinerary will allow you to get to know one of the most charming and emblematic spaces of the Palau Güell: the roof. You will be able to see how Gaudí turned the traditional chimneys we find on any roof in the city into real sculptures that are surprising for their varied shapes and polychromy.
The lightning rod needle and vane.
In the middle of the roof is the needle, which is 15 m high and is located on the dome of the central hall. It is covered on the outside with small fragments of vitrified sandstone from the inner walls of the already amortized lime kilns of the Güell estate in Garraf. Gaudí knew how to recycle this waste material in a great way that does not absorb water and protects the structure from moisture. The four shell-shaped lunettes at the base are open to the ground and allow light to enter the central room.
The middle part of the needle, the lantern, is a straight circular cone with eight parabolic profile windows (which allow light to enter the central hall through the zenithal oculus of the dome), one of the which acts as an access door to the inside of the lantern by means of a walkway. The twelve small rhomboidal openings, located above the windows, have no enclosures, but are protected by masonry visors. They have the function of ventilating the interior space of the lantern (maintaining the thermal balance with the external environment) and preventing the contraction-expansion movements of the structure. The walls of the lantern are built with ceramic material that thins out as it gains height. This reduction in thickness lightens the structure of unnecessary weight.
Gaudí used the glazed sandstone, from the inner walls of the lime kilns, for the roof needle and for chimney number 11, once they could no longer be used for the firing process. It should be noted that the production of lime, along with cement, was the main industry of the Garraf massif. Lime was obtained from kilns, the walls of which were 20 cmthick, they were built with the same limestones. If the cooking process was repeated four or five times, the walls of the oven would weaken so much that, once damped, it had to be abandoned and a new one had to be built. Over time it was discovered that if the inner face of the kiln walls was lined with sandstone blocks, the kiln could be used about thirty-two times, until the effects of vitrification described above reached the limit and they advised the construction of a new furnace, for amortization of the first. It was in these kilns that Gaudí found this resistant material: vitrified sandstone, the ideal material for covering the lantern of the Palau Güell.
A beautiful vane crowns the needle of the Palau Güell and serves to indicate the direction of the wind and also as lightning rods. It consists of a device with a bat and a tambourine, capable of rotating pushed by the wind around a vertical axis. It is crowned by a Greek cross, and at the base is a cone and a sphere with sixteen points. It is made of iron, brass and copper.
Chimney 1: The base and trunk of this chimney retain the volumetric shape and the original ceramic cladding designed by Gaudí. On the other hand, the chapel retains Gaudí’s original volumetric shape but not the original covering, which had disappeared. The current cladding, also made of ceramic, is the result of a new design that was commissioned in 1992 from the sculptor and ceramist Joan Gardy.
Chimney 2: The base and trunk of this chimney retain Gaudí’s volumetric shape; as for the original glass cladding, which had been partially lost, the preserved part has been retained, while the lost part was recovered with reproduced pieces following Gaudí’s design. On the other hand, in the case of the chapel, which also retains the primitive volumetric shape designed by Gaudí, the original glass cladding had been completely lost and in 1994 a new design was commissioned, also with glass, from the painter Robert Llimós.
Chimney 3: The base and trunk of this chimney retain Gaudí’s volumetric shape; as for the original glass cladding, which had been partially lost, the part that was preserved is still there, while the lost part was recovered with pieces reproduced following Gaudí’s design. On the other hand, as for the chapel, which also retains Gaudí’s original shape (volume), the glass cladding had been completely lost and in 1992 a new design was made, also made of glass, by the architects of the Barcelona Provincial Council Antoni González and Pau Carbó, the sculptors Joan Gardy and Joan Mora, the painter Robert Llimós and the architect Domingo García-Pozuelo.
Chimney 4: The base and trunk of this chimney retain the original volume and the original glass cladding designed by Gaudí. Instead, the cap retains the original shape, but not the original glass cladding. In its place was also placed glass, with a new design made by Joan Mora in 1992, which incorporates two details made of stone corresponding to a lizard and a rope.
Chimney 5: In this chimney, both the trunk and the chapel are lined with original glazed pottery, restored in 1992; the decoration of these elements is therefore the original, designed and placed by Gaudí. Gaudí also decorated the edges of the base with ceramics. On the other hand, with regard to the interior panels of the base, which had lost the cladding, they correspond to a modern design made by the architect of the Diputació de Barcelona Pau Carbó Berthold, in 1992. The volume of the chimney, such as that of the rest of the chimneys of the Palau Güell are original by Gaudí.
Chimney 6: The trunk, the chapel and the edges of the base of this chimney are covered with original glazed ceramics, according to Gaudí’s design, restored in 1992. As for the interior panels of the base, the panel of the south-west face is original, but the other three panels, which had been lost, were filled with a modern design made by the architect of the Diputació de Barcelona Antoni González, in 1992. The volume of the chimney, like that of the rest of chimneys of the Palau Güell, is original by Gaudí.
Chimney 7: The throne, the chapel and the edges of the base of this chimney are covered with original ceramics according to Gaudí’s design. Instead, the interior panels of the base, which had lost the coating, were covered in 1992 following the modern design carried out by the architect and painter Domingo García-Pozuelo. The volume of the chimney, like that of the other chimneys in the Palau Güell, is original by Gaudí.
Chimney 8: The trunk, the chapel and the edges of the base of this chimney are the originals, according to Gaudí’s design, and are covered with glazed ceramics, which was restored in 1992. The four panels of the base, which had been lost, they were filled around 1970 with pottery of the time. The volume of the chimney, like that of the other chimneys in the Palau Güell, is original by Gaudí.
Chimney 9: This chimney retained part of its original earthenware cladding from fragments of Pickman’s crockery from Seville (1895). In 1992, the preserved cladding was restored and what had been lost was rebuilt thanks to the design and realization of Antoni González. The volume of the chimney, like that of the other chimneys in the Palau Güell, is original by Gaudí.
Chimney 10: The trunk and base of this chimney have the original ceramic decoration that Gaudí had designed. The hat had lost its coating, and in 1992 it was covered with ceramics following the design of the painter Gustavo Carbó Berthold. The volume of the chimney, like that of the other chimneys in the Palau Güell, is original by Gaudí.
Chimney 11: This chimney is covered with vitrified sandstone from the inside of lime kilns (the same coating as the central needle). The chimney was restored in 1989. The volume and design of the cladding are original by Gaudí.
Chimney 12: As in all the chimneys of the Palau Güell, the volume of this chimney is the one designed by Gaudí. In addition, the coating of fragments of polychrome tiles and the design of the drawing are the originals of Gaudí. It was restored in 1992, when the lost or badly damaged pieces were replaced by others from the period, or by some reproduced according to the old model.
Chimney 13: This chimney retains the original coating of unpolished white marble fragments, only the lost or badly damaged pieces were replaced in 1991, during the restoration that was carried out, by others of the same material and texture. The volume and design of the cladding are original by Gaudí.
Chimney 14: This fireplace retains the original cladding of fragments of polychrome tiles. During the restoration that took place in 1992, only the lost or badly damaged pieces were replaced by others from the period or by some made in accordance with the old model. The volume and design of the cladding are original by Gaudí.
Chimneys from 15 to 20: These fireplaces are handcrafted without cladding. All of them retain Gaudí’s original form (volume) and appearance. Chimneys 18, 19 and 20 were restored in 1988 and chimneys 15, 16 and 17 were restored in 1992. In the restoration of all these chimneys the original model of Gaudí was followed. Function: chimney 15 does not appear in Gaudí’s plans, it was built in 1895 to ventilate the hole of the electric elevator, which had just been installed; it was built, therefore, at the end of the main work and perhaps Gaudí no longer intervened. Fireplace 16 corresponds to the fireplace in the bathroom on the bedroom floor. Fireplace 17 corresponds to the fireplace in the dining room on the main floor. Chimney 18 is a smoke outlet from the mezzanine kitchens. Chimney 19 a smoke outlet from the attic kitchens. Fireplace 20 corresponds to the fireplace in the blue room on the bedroom floor.