1899-1902 The Park Güell project
Towards the turn of the 20th century, the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918) promoted a private residential development, which he called Park Güell. He commissioned the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí to direct the project, and work began in 1900.
The project site was a rural estate in the city heights that Eusebi Güell had acquired in 1899. Known as Can Muntaner de Dalt, the estate was located in La Salut, a neighbourhood in Gràcia, then an independent township. In 1902, Güell enlarged the property by adding an adjoining estate, Can Coll i Pujol.
The plan was to build some sixty houses on the development, along with common services for the residents: porter’s lodge, visitor reception, a large square, market, a chapel and a surveillance service. Nature was to play a prominent role, and the conditions established for building stipulated that each house could only occupy one-sixth of its plot; the garden would occupy the rest.
Park Güell was not successful as a real estate venture since, apart from the porter’s lodge, which occupies one of the pavilions at the main entrance to the site, only two of the sixty houses planned were finally built. Work stopped in 1914 and the residential project was never completed.
Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918) was a textile industrialist and one of the most active leading citizens in the economic and social life of Barcelona between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
When he discovered Gaudí’s creative capacity, he commissioned him to do the pavilions at the Güell estate on land on the outskirts of the city, in what is now the Sarrià district and, shortly afterwards, Palau Güell in Carrer Nou de la Rambla, which was to be his family’s new residence in the city.
In a short time, Güell became his main customer, since the architect shared his tastes and attended to his needs. He also designed the church at Colònia Güell, in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, and Park Güell for him.
1903-1905 The show house
Whilst construction work on Park Güell continued, Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918) allowed the developer, Josep Pardo i Casanovas, to build a show house in order to attract potential buyers. This house was designed by a friend and assistant of Gaudí, Francesc Berenguer i Mestres (1866-1914).
An application for a works permit was lodged with Barcelona City Council in October 1905, though the house had probably already been completed by that date. Antoni Gaudí signed the plans, because Berenguer was not officially qualified as an architect.
The plot chosen to build the house, well-oriented and of easy access to cars, had views over the city and the main entrance, the square and the so-called Hill of Three Crosses in Park Güell.
The three-storey house with basement, built on sloping land, is crowned by a pointed tower. The two chimneys and the tower are covered in trencadís ceramic, whilst the pink external walls are stuccoed. Berenguer used the sgraffiti technique in decorating the building.
The other house which was built in the park (besides the porter’s lodge) was that of the lawyer Martí Trias i Domènech, designed by the architect Juli Batllevell i Arús.
1906-1925 Gaudí’s home
In 1906, Antoni Gaudí moved into the show house at Park Güell with his father, Francesc Gaudí i Serra, and with his niece, Rosa Egea i Gaudí. Francesc Gaudí had acquired the house in August that same year.
Gaudí’s father died in October 1906, his niece in January 1912, after which the architect lived alone in the house. We do know, however, that he often enjoyed the company of friends, such as Llorenç Matamala i Pinyol (1856-1925), sculptor at the Sagrada Família. Moreover, the Carmelite nuns that had cared for his father and niece in their illness continued to help Gaudí in his domestic chores.
Gaudí’s neighbours during his stay at Park Güell were the Güell and Trias families. Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918), his friend and client, lived in the old house on the Can Muntaner de Dalt estate, whilst the lawyer Martí Trias i Domènech occupied the only other house built in the Park, Casa Trias.
Although we do not know whether the architect himself decorated the house, it seems that he did carry out some alterations to the interior. He probably designed the porch and the pergola around the perimeter of the plot.
Gaudí lived in the house for nearly twenty years, a time when he worked on his major projects and, after 1914, exclusively on the construction of the Sagrada Família.
In 1925, he moved into the workshop of the Sagrada Família.
1926-1962 The Chiappo residence
After Gaudí died, 10 June 1926, his house in Park Güell was put up for sale. The Italian tradesman Francesc Chiappo Arietti and his wife, Josefina Sala Barucchi, purchased it on 30 December 1926, and moved in.
In accordance with Gaudí’s will, the profits from the transaction were invested in continuing work on the Sagrada Família. However, the sale of the house led to the dispersal of the goods and personal effects that the architect had installed in his home in Park Güell.
The Chiappos greatly altered the house, giving it a new personality. The second floor was adapted for the housekeepers. Admirers of the Catalan architect, Francesc and Josefina made the house known as Casa Gaudí.
1963-1991 The house becomes museum
The Gaudí House Museum opened to the public on 28 September 1963 with the goal of making this a centre for dissemination and an international reference for all those interested in the life and work of Antoni Gaudí.
Initially, plans entailed using the site as residence for students of Gaudí and to exhibit furniture and other objects designed by the architect. Finally, however, it was decided to convert the site into an exhibition centre only, and objects and documents related to Gaudí’s life were acquired for this purpose. Little by little, a museum came into being.
The first director of the Gaudí House Museum from the time the centre opened to the public was Josep M. Garrut i Romà (1915-2008), who held the post until his death.
In 1992, the Gaudí House Museum was acquired by the Construction Board of La Sagrada Família Foundation, whose main mission is to manage construction of the church. This fulfilled Gaudí’s will, as he wanted his legacy to be used to continue work on the Sagrada Família.
Since then, the Foundation has worked to improve the conservation, security and accessibility of the Gaudí House Museum, as well as its museography. Moreover, to highlight the value of the garden, the Foundation has also improved and refurbished it, restoring the different elements displayed there and enhancing its presentation.
Work continues even today with the goal of improving the museography at the Gaudí House Museum, making the visit easier to understand and more enjoyable, and research into Gaudí’s life, work and legacy is also ongoing.