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Gaudí’s Güell Pavilions

The Güell Pavilions are an early work of the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), the most important of the Catalan art nouveau architects. They were part of the summer home buildings of the Güell family, one of the more important members of the Catalan bourgeoisie. The industrialist Joan Güell i Ferrer (1800–1872) had a big estate in a village close to Barcelona called Les Corts, now one of the city’s suburbs. His son, Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, decided to undertake several projects to improve the buildings and the gardens and commissioned work from the architect Joan Martorell (1833–1906) in 1883. Martorell reformed the estate main building and commissioned his young pupil, Antoni Gaudí, to build a monumental new entrance. Between 1883 and 1887, Gaudí designed two pavilions, the gatekeeper’s lodge and the stables block on either side of a monumental wrought-iron gate. The function of the two pavilions and the garden must be appreciated in the context of the general function of the Güell estate. The estate possessed extensive grounds and shade trees not only to satisfy the needs of the residence, but also for the pleasure of the family.

The most significant element of the complex is the spectacular wrought-iron gateway with an impressive and monumental dragon. On the right is the stable block, which provided care for the horses in two main spaces: the stables and the horse-training room. The stables form a rectangular space with roof made up of a series of parabolic arches—a common feature in the work of Gaudí—which support vaults based on the use of a native solution known as the Catalan vault. The horse-training room is a centralized structure covered with a hemispherical dome surmounted by a lantern. Outside, Gaudí tried to implement his ideas on polychrome architecture using the contrast between red brick and coloured ceramic decoration. Over the dome, ceramic is applied using apple green band tiles as neutral zones, in contrast with other bands coated with fragments of tiles combining two colours, blue and white. It is the first time that Gaudí used a technique known as trencadís, which employs broken pieces of ceramics affixed to a surface. The gatekeeper's lodge stands to the left of the estate's main gateway and its three cupolas, which can be seen from street level, appear richly decorated, again using the trencadís technique.

The site is an urban setting, on the Pedralbes Avenue on the southeast of Barcelona, close to Diagonal Avenue. In 1922 the estate was converted into the Barcelona Royal Palace and in the 1950s was handed over to the University of Barcelona as a part of the university campus. The Güell Pavilions have been on the Spanish National list of heritage since 20 August 1969 and have been on the high-qualification BECIN (Bens Culturals d’Interés Nacional) since 9 May 2008 in the Catalan Cultural Heritage. Now, the University of Barcelona and the city’s Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life have a master plan of rehabilitation.