Spacemaking for the Rich: Parc Guell

Every tourist that I meet and get to know in Barcelona tells me that I have to go to Parc Guell and House Guell. House Guell and Parc Guell are examples of spacemaking for the rich. I’m sorry. I have tried to see something more beautiful. The details are impressive and the shaping gorgeous, but around every turn, with each imported this or gilded that, I am reminded of the political social temporal climate of Gaudi’s time, and still, now.
Guell was a wealthy patron of the architect Gaudi. Guell commissioned many of Gaudi’s great works that litter tourist pamphlets and Catalonian Art history books. I visited House Guell – a house designed by Gaudi for the Guell family in the center of Barcelona, and Parc Guell – a failed housing development for wealthy people turned tourist attraction in the mountains with an incredible view of the city and sea.

You may be familiar with a derision the name Gaudi if someone has ever described something as, “gaudy” flashy or so detailed it’s ugly. That’s because Gaudi’s works, his spaces, are immaculate. He mimics organic shapes and redefines space to give an almost velvet existence. My issue with his work is the obscene amount of money and labor that went into its construction. At the time of Gaudi, there was a revolution of poor workers. And yet Guell who had the financial and political power to make a positive political impact, opted instead to commission immaculate, expensive works for his personal, and those with privilege’s, consumption. Typical baroque.
I believe to be truly revolutionary, to be truly impactful one must react to the times. Nothing is revolutionary if it is inaccessible to the poor.
Still, the detailing and spacemaking is beautiful.

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From Gaudi’s work you can learn the importance of integrating human existence into nature. He just doesn’t go far enough to see that humanity, all classes and backgrounds, are a part of nature – creating houses and churches that look more like fortresses. This sense is exacerbated by the fact that each work charges admission and is not free and open to the public.

Still, Gaudi’s work being informed by nature is powerful precisely because of this concept. Droves of people from all over the world flock to Gaudi’s sites seeking saturation through audio tours describing every material, every choice to import and perfect each tiny detail. Because of this fascination with the work as object and the “artistic” process, Parc Guell has become a cross between an old estate museum and Disney land. Visitors walk the premises and take pictures of every little detail, but do not engage naturally with the space.DSC_0048

From Parc Guell we learn:

  1. The beauty in details and passion for your work.
  2. To insist that nature inform and be included in any space – that includes the nature of political society.
  3. There is a precedent of spacemaking as art
  4. How space works are treated in longevity – if deemed “important” can be treated as stasis art instead of organically evolving to address the people at the time.
  5. Patrons can give you the opportunity to create great works, be recognized and respected, but with this level of support you may miss the chance of being humble and creating works that more reflect the times.
  6. People are interested in detailed artistic choices and process– so much that they can miss the larger view.