Ten years since the last restoration of the Palau Güell

The May 25th of 2011, after being closed to the public for seven years, Palau Güell reopened to the public. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the exceptional restoration project led by the local architectural heritage service of the Barcelona provincial council, managed to return the monument to its original magnificence.

  • Top panel of the fireplace designed by Alexandre de Riquer
  • Lock on the door to Eusebi Güell's office
  • Pipes of the new organ of Palau Güell.
  • Organ of the Güell Palace
  • Embossed leather

Since the Palau Güell is owned by the Barcelona Provincial Council, different restoration campaigns have been carried out on the building with the aim of preserving it for future generations. The most distinguished began in 2004 and ended ten years ago. On May 15th, 2011, it was presented to the public.

The restoration criterion were based on the idea of returning the monument to its authenticity. The restoration was carried out according to the method defined, since 1986, by the Monuments Cataloguing and Conservation Service of the Barcelona Provincial council, based on the historical constructive, artistic and sociological analysis of the monuments and on a careful and consequent intervention later. Today, ten years apart, the Palau Güell has become an essential architectural monument to discover the essence of all of Gaudi´s early work.

The essential objective of the last major intervention was recover the original formal and spatial values of the building through the restoration of the conserved elements or faithful reconstruction of the lost elements. In some casas and when the contribution of new materials was necessary of convenient, the principle of harmonic diachrony was applied (harmonic dialogue between original and new materials, without confusion regarding their chronology).

Prior restorations

In the early 1990s all 20 fireplaces on the terrace were restored. As regards those who have lost the overlay, the contribution of Catalan plastic artists made it possible. From 1993 the intervention inside the building began.

Afterwards, the studies conducted until 2004 provided abundant information on the performance of the building but showed that there was still not enough knowledge of it, since Gaudi’s construction systems hid secrets, the decipherment of which was not possible with the building in use. Risk situations for people were also detected due to the state of some elements.

For all these reasons, a new analysis was planned that should allow evaluating the state of conservation od the materials and construction systems as a preliminary step to a comprehensive restoration of the Palau, which was decided to close its doors to the public in October 2004. The new studies were complex and continued until the end of 2005. Subsequently, a project for the use od the monuments was approved, which established the public visit as a primary function and successive construction projects were drawn up.

The restoration since 2005

Between 2005 and 2007 the side façade and the terrace were restored. On the terrace, specifically, the most complex intervention was the replacement of the hidden oxidized structure of the lantern, originally made of iron, with another made of titanium. During 2006 the restoration of the main and midday facades commences and in 2007 the structural reinforcement works start. As regards the coffered ceilings, which over the years had lost their function, the hidden part was consolidated and the colour and texture of the exposed elements of wood and iron were recovered. Later, the restoration of the flooring, pavements as the rest of the constructive and ornamental elements, furniture and others (stone, ceramic, wood, iron, brass, glass, leather, fabric, etc.) was undertaken. Regarding the treatment of the walls. The original colour range was recovered.

To adapt the building to the new functional and safety requirements, the wooden facilities and services were updated in a way that the formal and spatial values of the monuments were not altered. Moreover, the interior lighting remained faithful to the idea that lead the musealization of the building. According to which it was not about showing the visitor the way in which the Güell family lived, but rather allowing a better understanding and enjoyment of Gaudi’s architecture.

 Among all the interventions in this las phase, those related to wood stand out for their complexity and scope. A team of eight cabinetmakers worked for more than two years at the Palau to repair, restore and reconstruct both the constructive and ornamental elements (door, windows, lattices, gates, railings, etc.) and their own mechanisms.

 In the cases in which it was always carried out with the same type of wood (pine, eucalyptus, oak, beech, walnut, mahogany, rosewood, ebony, etc.) and with the sections, the type of joint and the original techniques.

Gaudí was able to build the Palau thanks to the work of the excellent workers at his service, as the complete restoration ended in 2011 was possible thinks to specialist with similar skill and he same enthusiasm as the first.

The organ

Another important aspect of the work was the recovery of the organ. Eusebi Güell commissioned the instrument from the Basque organ builder Aquilino Amezua, and Gaudí arranged the location and integration in the building to achieve an excellent relationship among music and architecture. The console, still preserved, was then placed on the noble floor, while the tubes were arranged around the central dome designed as a exceptional musical echo.

During the 1930s, nevertheless, the organ underwent a process of irreversible degradation. Eighty years later, when the restitution of the original organ was rejected as impossible, it was decided that the new one should be installed in the same place as the previous one to take advantage od the preserved elements, such as the wooden pipes on the side facades. The new organ was built by the organ master Albert Blancafort in his workshop in Collbató. The new instrument contains all the resources of the original organ, in addition to adding other registers or sounds that allow the performance of the most of the organistic literature. The organist is now in direct contact with the instrument and, so that visitors can enjoy the music, the organ has been equipped with a system that plays the selected pieces every half hour.

The Palau Güell management maintains as a fundamental mission the preservation of the Palau as World Heritage, its divulgation, dissemination, documentation, research and the provision of services related to the monument. To be able to do this, it has the help of the Local Architectural heritage Service of the Barcelona Provincial Council, which is in charge of both the conservation of the monument and the ordinary, extraordinary and scheduled maintenance work as well as the improvement and replacement work of different elements of the Palau.