The Güell Pavilions in Barcelona's Pedralbes neighborhood are an early work of the modern master Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). The pavilions and the garden were designed at the behest of Eusebi Güell, who would become the young architect's most important patron, and were built between 1883 and 1887. Gaudí designed two pavilions, a stable, and a gatekeeper's lodge on either side of an elaborate wrought-iron gate depicting a fanciful dragon that led into the expansive Güell estate. The design was inspired by the myth of the Garden of the Hesperides, which, in a poetic retelling by Jacint Verdaguer that was popular with Gaudí and the Güell family, was interwoven with the history of the origin of the Catalan people.
The Güell Pavilions are an example of Modernista architecture. Not to be mistaken with modern architecture, Modernismo is the name given in Spain to the Art Noveau style that flourished in the Catalonia region at the turn of the century; Modernista is the adjective form of Modernismo. The buildings at Güell contain many elements of Gaudí's signature building style, including parabolic arches and Catalan vaulting, and are topped by lanterns faced with trencadís, or fragments of colored ceramic tiles. According to Güell's will, the estate was given to the Spanish Royal Family and converted into a royal palace in 1918. The site was later acquired by the University of Barcelona during its expansion into this area in the 1950s, and it now forms part of the Avinguda Diagonal campus of the university.
2014 World Monuments Watch
The pavilion and gardens were included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to garner resources to improve public access to the site. As a result of the Watch announcement, the University of Barcelona (the owner) and the city's Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life signed an agreement by which the Municipality of Barcelona would restore the buildings in exchange for their use for ten years. A master plan was also approved, scheduling the restoration phases, defining a new access to the site for visitors, and expanding the use of the site for university events.
Access-improvement and education initiatives as tools to increase awareness about the site
In late 2015, both the gardens and the stables were opened for tourism, education, and civic activities, although the gatekeeper’s house remained closed to the public. In fact, although the stables had been restored by the Spanish Ministry of Culture before the inclusion of the site on the Watch, their interiors still need repairs.
In June 2015, a Watch Day event was celebrated as part of a special session of an international congress on Barcelona’s Modernismo, which was organized by the nonprofit Art Nouveau European Route. The daylong event was held in the former stable, and included lectures and an outdoor concert and reception.
With support from American Express, WMF is currently developing two educational initiatives to increase awareness about the significant Modernista buildings of Barcelona. These include a book by experts of the University of Barcelona on the pavilions and the trencadís technique, and also an interactive app that allows visitors to learn more about the Catalan Modernista buildings scattered throughout Barcelona.