One reason our trip down from Tibidabo was a bit shorter than the voyage up the mountain was that we saved two stops and a transfer on the Metro to visit the Palau Güell, Gaudi’s first major work for his long-time client.
Eusebi Güell was an industrialist, a politician and Gaudi’s biggest and most enthusiastic patron. The two became BFFs, and Güell’s palatial home just a block off La Rambla was Gaudi’s first major commission from his client. It’s called a palace for a reason.
The home stayed in the Güell family until 1945, although the patriarch himself only lived there a few years before moving his residence to Colonia Güell, his experiment in collective living for his mill workers. Apparently, Mrs. Güell didn’t like the place much herself. The Palau Güell has only been open as a museum for about five years, even though it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO back in 1984.
The excellent audio guide takes the visitor through all the rooms of the magnificent home and clearly explains many of the prominent architectural and design features that make the house so unusual, even by Gaudi standards. Gaudi touches abound everywhere, even though this is a very early work of his. Güell was rich beyond imagination (his fortune was estimated to be $70 billion in today’s dollars), so no expense was spared. With ten children, Gaudi needed a lot of room.
One minor criticism is that all the rooms are for the most part empty of furniture. I would prefer to see furniture, even if not originals, in the rooms so that the visitor can get a better feel for how the occupants actually lived there. In their defense, much of the home’s furnishings were distributed to other Güell residences as the descendants moved into their own homes over the years after the death of the patriarch. However, the museum audio guide includes a number of photographs of the rooms as they appeared when the Güell actually family lived there.
The roof alone is worth the visit, because there you can see what later became the fantastical features of Casa Batlo and Casa Mila years later. The chimneys in Palau Güell are for the most part reconstructed in recent years from Gaudi’s plans and models. But together they create a theme park of Gaudi’s imagination not to be missed.