Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed the former hospital as a garden city, with freestanding pavilions set in large green spaces. The gardens were considered a vital part of the patients’ recovery, since their contact with the outdoors was considered to aid speedy recovery. This is why Domènech created winter gardens, with species that let the sun shine through, and summer gardens, with leafy trees that provide a lot of shade.
With the restoration of the Art Nouveau Site, the aim was to return to the architect’s original idea and also to apply modern criteria of sustainability to the buildings and the space that surrounds them. Among other aspects, plants were used to fix CO2 by means of photosynthesis, enhance biodiversity and reduce the heat island effect.
As well as recovering the spirit of Domènech’s original project, most of the trees were conserved (80% of those growing there prior to restoration work). The current vegetation combines species that might have been planted at the time with others that are more usual today, prioritizing those of Mediterranean origin, with low water needs.
Now, as then, many of the plant species we find at Sant Pau have medicinal uses. This is the case of lemon verbena, for example, the leaves of which are used in infusions to ease stomach ache. Other herbs include sage, lavender and rosemary. Noteworthy trees include orange, elm, linden and cedar. In total, there are over 60 species of shrubs, trees and plants.
This profusion of plants obviously encourages fauna. Fifty species of bird have been spotted in the gardens of Sant Pau. Some live here year round, others overwinter or stop on their migratory routes. The kestrel and the jackdaw are among the species sighted. Both help, albeit modestly, to regulate the populations of other species that are considered pests (pigeons, rats and mice).
Among the insects, the presence of the honey bee is particularly worth noting. This species has undergone a considerable decline in Europe, which is why it is so vital to protect it and its contribution to pollination.
All of these characteristics make the gardens of the Art Nouveau Site an example of biodiversity. They are also a haven of peace where time stands still. Come and enjoy the peace and quiet. Give in to the charms of an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city.