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The Palau Güell (1886-1890)
Palau Güell was an assignment that Gaudí received from his patron, Eusebi Güell, in 1885. It occupies the plots corresponding to numbers 3 and 5 on the Carrer Nou de la Rambla, in Barcelona.
Joan Güell (1800-1877), Eusebi's father, had a house on the Rambla dels Caputxins, and Eusebi Güell, the future count of Güell, thought that he could build a building on the same block of homes and join them through the interior patio. Starting in 1883, he bought various buildings on the block, becoming the owner of almost the entire block.
Although the Ciudad Condal ("city of the counts" - a nickname for Barcelona) was expanding towards nearby villages through the Eixample, Güell did not want to abandon the family properties and decided to stay in one of the areas of worst renown in the city. Precisely at the entrance to the Carrer Nou de la Rambla (previously Carrer del Conde del Asalto) was located the most famous brothel in the whole city. Güell wanted to change the area's bad reputation by constructing a building of good bearing, so he did not limit the project's budget, and Gaudí was able to use the best materials.
For the development of the building's plans, Gaudí designed, as Martinell tells us, 25 different facades. The definitive plans were presented to the Ajuntament de Barcelona (Barcelona City Hall) on June 10, 1886. One month later, they were approved-although there were some problems with the municipal architect-and construction began immediately. The date the building was finished is not clear because, although the year indicated on the facade is 1888 (when the World Exposition in Barcelona was inaugurated), it is known that, in 1890, it was still under construction, and the interior decoration works were probably not finished until 1895.
The palace has a basement, four floors and a flat roof. In the basement there was a corral for the horses and a room for the groom and the harness keeper. To reach this area, Gaudí designed two ramps: a soft one for horses, and another, steeper one, helicoidal in shape, for the service. The ventilation of this underground floor is taken care of with a small interior patio and by some ventilation pipes which reach the roof.
The lower floor corresponds to the street level. It has two large doors in the shape of parabolic arches, which allow for easy access for carts and people. The grills that these doors enclose are divided into two parts: one mobile and another fixed, both made from forged iron. The designs on the fixed grills represent two entangled serpents that hold up the initials of the home's owner. Between the two stone arches of the doors we find a hollow, forged iron cylinder, on which the crest of Catalonia, in the shape of a spiral and crowned by an eaglet, can be observed. When, during the placement of this ornament, Güell and Gaudí were observing how it looked, a passer-by said that it was very strange; then Güell affirmed that he liked it even more.
The main stairway is located between the two halls that preside over the entrance, with the doorman's flat and the service stairs to each side of it.