ELS JARDINS DE CAN ARTIGAS. La Pobla de Lillet
In 1905, Gaudí travelled to La Pobla de Lillet in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees to build the Catllaràs chalet, a lodging for the labourers and engineers working at the nearby Asland cement factory, owned by Gaudí’s patron, Eusebi Güell. While there, the architect was invited to stay in the home of textile magnate Joan Artigas. To thank his host for his hospitality, Gaudí transformed the land in front of Artigas’ house into a garden. The result is a magical place in which nature and Gaudí’s signature architectural style blend harmoniously together. Working with the natural elements of the land, Gaudí created an enigmatic garden that is a joy to explore. If you’ve been to Park Güell, this garden will feel familiar, as you follow the winding path through intricate stone arches, over fairytale bridges, past fountains and into a little grotto. Here, however, Gaudí favoured natural stone against the greens of the foliage over the colourful trencadís tiling that features heavily in Park Güell. The gardens stretch across four hectares of land by a river and there are many choice spots, from benches to gazebos, to rest and watch the water rushing by below. As in many of his works, Gaudí filled the gardens with Christian symbols, including statues depicting the four evangelists that form the shape of the cross. Over time, the gardens fell into disrepair, and by the beginning of the Seventies was all but abandoned. In 1992, they were restored under the supervision of the Reial Càtedra Gaudí and are now owned and managed by the local authority. The gardens are open to the public at the weekend and they are located about an hour and a half by car from Barcelona.
Tren del Ciment
Combine a visit to the Jardins de Can Artigas with a journey on this little diesel locomotive. The Tren del Ciment runs on the old ‘cement line’ that once joined the former Asland cement factory in Castellar de n’Hug with Guardiola de Berguedà, from where a narrow-gauge railway left for Berga and Manresa. The line is just 3.5 kilometres long, and has four stations: La Pobla de Lillet, La Pobla Centre, Jardins de Can Artigas and Cement Museum-Castellar de n’Hug. www.trendelciment.cat
In 1890, to escape the social unrest of Barcelona, Eusebi Güell moved his textile mill to Santa Coloma, 23 kilometres to the south-west of the city. To house the mill workers, he created the Colonia Güell, a purpose-built village. This industrial colony was one of many small towns created with the purpose of providing a place for factory and mill workers to live, generally under the eye of the factory owner. However, unlike most of his contemporaries, Güell worked to improve his workers’ conditions, providing terraced houses, a school, shops, gardens and a church. He commissioned the work to some leading Modernista architects of the time and the result was a spacious village with many beautiful facades and details.
Gaudí was commissioned to design the colony’s church. He spent 10 years working on his plans and construction work finally began in 1899. The ambitious project combined aspects of traditional religious architecture with the magic of Gaudí’s creative genius, featuring many stone arches, trencadís mosaic tiling and lots of inspiration from nature. The plans consisted of an upper and lower nave, different towers and a 40-metre high belfry. However, after completion of the lower nave, in 1914, the Güell family decided to stop funding the church, so the original plans remained unfinished. In 1915 the nave was consecrated by the Bishop of Barcelona, and the church became popularly known as the Crypt. Although unfinished, the Crypt integrates many architectural innovations that Gaudí went on to use in other key works. A replica of his model for the Crypt is in the museum at the Sagrada Familia.
The mill was sold by the Güell family in 1945 to the Bertrand y Serra family and it finally ceased production in 1973. Over the subsequent years, the mill was sold again, residents in the colony bought their properties and public institutions took over the facilities and land. In 1990, the Colonia Güell was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. In 2000, local architects worked to refurbish many of the village’s buildings and to ‘finish’ the Crypt, and although many people felt that this took away its authenticity, it does make it more visitor-friendly.
Besides visiting the Crypt, you can stroll around the streets and squares of the Colonia Güell. If you visit on a Saturday you can also catch the weekly farmers’ market.
CELLAR GÜELL. Garraf
If you’ve ever driven to Sitges on the coastal road then you may well have spotted the eye-catching triangular form of Celler Güell, which sits just below the road. Gaudí was commissioned this winery in 1882 by Eusebi Güell and it was built between 1895 and 1897 under the direction of Gaudí’s assistant, Francesc Berenguer. The estate consists of two buildings—the winery itself and a porter’s lodge—and for a while, Güell produced wine here for the transatlantic shipping company, Companyía Transatlàntica. Production was finally stopped in 1936 due to a lack of commercial success.
The winery building is made entirely of stone and is one of Gaudí’s most interesting buildings. The walls follow the slope of the roof gables, creating a triangular front elevation, which is topped by chimneys. The main building is built over three floors and comprises the basement, the watchman’s lodging on the ground floor and, on the top floor, a chapel. The winery is linked by two parabolic bridges to the estate’s original medieval country house.
The porter’s lodge is made of bricks and stone and is reminiscent of the buildings that were later constructed by Gaudí’s assistants in the Colonia Güell. The building is now a restaurant that specalises in local and Mediterranean cuisine. www.gaudigarraf.com