Streetlights for Plaza Real and Pla de Palau

During his studies, Gaudí worked with Josep Fontserè i Mestre as a draughtsman for the entrance gate to the Ciutadella Park. Upon finishing this project, the Barcelona City Council commissioned him to design the public lighting of two of the city’s squares: Plaza Real and Pla de Palau.

The young Gaudí, who had recently graduated as an architect, created two different designs, one with six arms and another with three, both with gas lamps with a stone base and a wrought iron and bronze column.

The two lampposts that are located on Plaza Real have six arms and are characterised by their colourful details from the stone base, where Gaudí included a large iron medallion with floral motifs. The cast iron column emerges from the base, the bottom of which boasts subtle plant motifs with ivy leaves. He placed the Barcelona coat of arms in the middle of the column and small red floral motifs above this, just below the six arms that hold the glass lanterns. Without a doubt, the most original part is the top of the lamppost, which is crowned by a Caduceus with two snakes and a winged helmet, symbols that represent Mercury, the Roman god of commerce, an activity with which Barcelona, a highly commercial city, identified at the time, thanks to the port located near to the square.

The project submitted by Gaudí to the City Council bears witness to the simplicity of these lampposts. The project also justified the selection of all of the materials used for their creation:

“Creating a candelabra of noble simplicity, without weakness, giving each part the importance it requires, and strictly complying with the requirements for which it has been created: the greatest frankness has been followed with due formality in the use of the materials, leaving their structure and layout completely visible, not accepting, by any means, that a layer of colour may attempt to create the illusion of materials and objects that do not exist and which the weather would continually cause to disappear, showing the real material, like the nudity of the beggar, seen between the rags”.

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Despite being one of Gaudí’s first projects, his self-assurance is already apparent, judging by the reference made to payment in the executive project. Gaudí did not propose a fixed payment or lump sum for the project, as was common at the time, but rather the total price after installing the lampposts. Thus, Gaudí was clearly convinced that he would spend less than the proposed quote: three thousand six hundred and five pesetas, including a contingency budget.

In 1890, a decade after creating the lampposts in Plaza Real, he was commissioned to design those located on Pla de Palau in the same city, which stand in front of the Government Building. The design is the same as those located on Plaza Real, except for the fact that they have three arms and are not as abundantly decorated. At the top of the lampposts is an inverted crown, supported by three dragons, with protruding heads.

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