Friday, July 25, 2008

Intorducing the new, reformed Palau Güell....well, not quite.

Nestled just off Las Ramblas is one of Gaudi's numerous famous creations - Palau Güell - perhaps one of the most famous houses in Barcelona. It is just a little way down Nou de La Rambla, near to Liceu metro station. This is the only work by Gaudi that he actually finished, and is a UNESCO World heratige site.

During recent years (I'd say 3, but I might be wrong) it has been undergoing a complete restauration and renovation, and many a tourist has been baffled to see scaffolding over the structure and a full memory stick on their camera ready to use in hand. The notice of the front of the building since the beginning said that renovation was due to be completed at the end of 2007. Indeed, all of the usual guide books printed this for their 2007 versions. However, true to form, the Spanish builders were well off the mark, and I think it was May/June this year when the scaffolding finally came down.

I had already done a full tour a couple of years ago, but then seeing the scaffolding on there made me forget how much of an impact the building makes, espcially nestled between a mini-market, a bank and a kebab house.

So recently I decided to pay a visit. I remember last time that the rooftop was especially interesting, Gaudi had a penchant for chimneys is my guess (see La Pedrera if you don't beleive me!) so I was looking forward to seeing this again, and what if anything they had done. The last time I went there were guided tours, and you had to take a ticket and come back at a certain time. This time it's queue and walk around on your own - and here's why. The sign says a "Partial visit: entrance, basement and facade" I'm not quite sure how you give a tour of the facade (I didn't get one), but there you go.

The entrance is looming, and uses wrought Iron in winding shapes like snakes and vines - no straight lines here people. Then there is a kind of courtyard which leads down a very steep slope to the basement. I remember from last time that this entrance was only for goods and went stright downstairs to the cellar - the part we visit as the basement. Considering this would have rarely been seen by count Güell, his family of even his guests, Gaudi put an awful lot of work into it and the attention to detail is amazing.

Brick pillars come up from the ground to support the ceiling (and presumably the rest of the building), but no two follow form - one is curved, the other square. The lighting added afterwards by the modern day museum gives a stunning balance of shadow and light. There are chains to chain the horses with a drinking trough too. Unfortunately here ends the visit, which is a bit of a let-down as it's when it just gets you going!

I didn't enquire as to when the next part will be open (there is a period house to be seen on 2 floors, I seem to remember and the rooftop already mentioned is amazing) as I know they would just guess. I got chatting to one guy but he just said he was "new there" and seemed to just want to hand out leaflets (I got a French one, hence the lack of historic detail to accompany the post!).

I guess we'll just have to wait and see....

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