Mosaics and Madness – A Day at Park Guell

This is great. They have escalators running uphill to the park gate. No huffing, puffing, gasping for air, as I make my way up. Instead, I lean back against the handrail and look towards the city. The roofs, windows, cars, all grow smaller and smaller, while the city fans out, growing bigger and bigger.

One word to describe the park: crazy! Crazy, but in a good way. Crazy in the design-genius kind of way. Walking around, I can’t help thinking this is how life should play out – colourful, vibrant, and full of whimsy; incredibly beautiful in its chaos.

For a ‘failed project’ this place is pretty spectacular. In 1900 Gaudi was commissioned to create a garden village for the city’s wealthy. The plan included 60 residential structures, a market place, a palace of worship and recreational spaces spread over 42 acres of land overlooking the city. But by 1914 the idea ran out of money and the project was abandoned.

Gaudi lived here, in one of the two villas that were completed. His home is now a museum. The villa is a soothing pastel shade with some very Gaudi elements of design – the chimney, the tower, the wrought iron work, the boundary wall. It’s cosy with just the right amount of crazy to it.

There’s music, there’s ice cream, there are chirping birds. There are giant soap bubbles that you can run through, and dreadlocked vendors creating them. The bubbles, despite their massive form, float upwards, past the stalactite arches, over the fairytale roof tops. Their journey is followed by the hundreds of visitors here, and for those few seconds, eyes are pulled away from the park and focused above it.

But at the end of the day, all you remember is the mosaics that make this place – mosaics along the sweeping stairways, along the slithering benches, mosaics dressing up the gingerbread structures, along the park walls, mosaics that finally make lizards pretty, and mosaics that you’ll later buy at the souvenir store in forms of coaster sets and picture frames. Mosaics that promise an escape when the walls close in, that create a magical world with simple bits of broken tile.