Failure or Opportunity?

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Failure or Opportunity - thoughts inspired by a visit to Park Güell in Barcelona

Park Güell, a beautiful garden in Barcelona originally designed as a real estate venture, inspires reflection about failure

A beautiful garden complex sits on El Carmel hill in the Garcia district of Barcelona, Spain. Park Güell (pronounced “gway”) is a green space designed by famous Catalan Moderisme architect Antoni Gaudí. Its interesting architectural elements, tiled mosaics, gardens and views of the city attract thousands of visitors a year. But this is not what Park Güell was meant to be. It was originally a real estate venture. As a real estate venture, it was a spectacular failure.

Park Güell was meant to be a 30-acre, 60 residence gated community for Barcelona’s nouveaux riches. From 1900 to 1914, Gaudí planned and directed construction of the park for developer Eusebi Güell. There was to be a market hall, a terraced community meeting place, viaducts for automobiles and carriages, pedestrian pathways and parking garages. The venture was abandoned in 1914. Only two houses had been built. Complex conditions for the sale of plots, lack of a suitable transportation system and the exclusive nature of the development resulted in a lack of buyers. Gaudí lived there until 1925 in a show home he’d purchased in 1906. Güell lived on the property until 1918, in the mansion which was on the land when he bought it. The city bought the property in 1922.

Park Güell in Barcelona - failure or opportunity?

I wonder what Güell and Gaudí would think if they saw the park today. Could they have ever imagined it would become what it is?

Every failure is a step to success. ∼William Whewell

Failure is defined as an outcome other than what was planned. We’re often told to view failures as lessons to learn from so we can move forward and try again. The experience may indeed give us better insight into what actions we need to take to achieve the desired result. But is that the only way to look at failure?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ∼Albert Einstein

Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street. ∼Zig Ziglar

Perhaps, instead of viewing outcomes other than planned as “failures”, we should think about them as opportunities or part of our overall journey. They may point out possibilities we never considered, both for helping us achieve the original planned outcome and for setting us on a new path, opening up new goals or revising our vision.

Mistakes are the portals of discovery. ∼James Joyce

Sometimes even our successes don’t unfold quite the way we expected. Maybe we should view successes and failures not as end points, but as forks in the road.

Should Park Güell be considered a failure? What tourist sites have you visited which once were considered failures?


Failure or Opportunity? Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain

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  1. This looks like a fabulous place to visit. When fun failures like this occur, I think it was meant to be.

  2. The post makes me wonder what Park Guell would look like today if it has been successful as planned by the architect. Would it have ended up as a bunch of aging deteriorating homes? Or maybe it would be a charming historical village? Good change it wouldn’t have turned out to be as nice as it appears now.

    1. Ken, it is interesting to ponder what Park Guell might be like today if it had fulfilled its original intention. It certainly wouldn’t be what it is today. Given that Gaudi’s buildings are famous and crowds flock to visit his other creations in Barcelona, there is the possibility it might be a charming historical village. But who knows?

  3. Love Barcelona and live there for a while.

    As far as I’m concerned failure has to be truned into success. If not, you are left on the side of the road and everybody will drive past you. When there’s a will there’s a way.

    1. Catarina, I think there are many ways we can turn failures into successes. As you’ve said, when there’s a will there’s a way.

  4. I love all the quotes about failure. I wish we were taught more to fail while in school. I went to a school where overachieving was the norm and we were taught to aim for perfection. It took me quite a while to understand that I would never move forward if I didn’t let fail and I wish for the next generation that they could learn that earlier.

    I’ve never been to Barcelona but the pictures are beautiful.

    1. Erica, many of us have been taught that failure is awful and something to be ashamed and fearful of. If we think of it as part of the process toward success, might we attempt more things and be more successful in the end?

  5. Very interesting post, Donna. I hadn’t realized that Parc Guell had been built as a real estate venture! Gaudi’s designs really are gaudy for the most part. But there is something intriguing, and almost charming about them isn’t there? Thx for sharing this great post.

    1. Doreen, Gaudy Gaudi sounds like a good title for a blog post! Gaudy as they are, his works are also charming and I love them.

  6. Before reading a word I looked at the pictures and thought, wow, what a cool looking place. Its like ginger bread meets wedding cake. How could anything that inspires that reaction be considered a failure?

    1. Debra, I love that description – gingerbread meets wedding cake. You’re right – how could that be considered a failure!

  7. Looks like a beautiful place – except for the crowds. As for your message, couldn’t agree more with your point about redefining failure as an opportunity, although sometimes it takes a bit of time and perspective to actually find the light at the end of that tunnel. 🙂

  8. What a stunning destination! I’m sure the architect would never have dreamed his idea would be turned around with such dexterity and success. Winston Churchill once said, failure is the foundation of success. I hear that today’s generation doesn’t get much opportunity to fail, which is a shame. That’s what builds tenacity, character, and audacity. And obviously, gorgeous gardens!

  9. What an interesting post. Here were I live is Boldt castle, a man built it for his wife, who died during the construction. It was never finished. It sat there for decades, finally in late 70’s it was renovated. Now it is a major tourist attraction. thanks for sharing a so called “failure” with us. Failure or success is always a matter of a point of view.

  10. Looks like a good place to visit! Your post reminded me why we say ‘ If plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters!’

    1. Jeannette, failure is just another experience in life and often one which helps us grow or get better at what we’re trying to achieve. But many of us have come to fear it so much we give up trying.

  11. Barcelona is on my travel bucket list and Park Güell has been on my radar ever since I saw some of my friend’s gorgeous pics of the place. Your post has totally convinced me that I should definitely put it on my itinerary when I do make it to Spain. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I’m someone who holds that all creative efforts are works in progress, so I would say that Park Güell is indeed a success, and I’m rooting for its proprietors to keep reaching for the stars and make it even better in the future.

  13. I prefer the James Joyce view of failure. Given its distance from central Madrid, I can understand why Parque Güell might not have taken off as a real estate development. And who thought they’d still be building Gaudí’s masterpiece, the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia which has given me an excellent excuse to revisit Barcelona? Many US cities such as my hometown, Philadelphia, have managed to turn failing central cores into attractive residential neighborhoods. Timing has a lot to do with it. That, and vision.

    1. Suzanne, timing and vision do have a lot to do with it. I sometimes wonder if the word failure shouldn’t exist. James Joyce might agree.