Barrocal Park

Context

Barrocal is a 40ha of transitional landscape between the city and countryside. With elements of geological, archaeological, and natural value Barrocal is integrated in UNESCO’s Naturtejo Geopark and in the Tejo / Tajo International Biosphere Reserve. It is located on the outskirts of the city of Castelo Branco, two-hour drive away from Lisbon. The landscape character is determined by – and named after – the presence of huge granitic natural blocks with very particular shapes. The roughness of this landscape protected it from urban development, allowed for the preservation of its natural character. Over time, it become a sanctuary for wild fauna and flora.

In this context, the creation of a park was crucial for the preservation, study, and promotion of the Barrocal natural values. Its landscape and associated values, as well as its proximity to the city, represented an opportunity to provide outstanding spaces for Castelo Branco’s urban population, while creating a scientific, geological and archaeological interpretation site, a nature conservation site, and a nature tourism destination.

Concept

To intervene in 40ha of such a peculiar landscape, an island of nature surrounded by urban areas was, from the start, one of the greatest professional challenges of the Topiaris design team. If, on the one hand, its vast area and its landscape features recall the natural parks sphere, on the other hand, its proximity to the city requires for the inclusion of urban recreational uses. Barrocal is strongly imprinted in the city’s identity, thus inspiring the park’s ecological design proposal. The minimalistic subtleness of the intervention aims to immerse with the existing landscape, maintaining its poetic aura which unfolds in every small detail. The design aims to provide platforms to contemplate and experience the Barrocal landscape. The park’s masterplan was mainly designed on-site, by reading and interpreting topography, geology and other landscape elements, as it became clear that it would be impossible to obtain a rigorous topographic survey given the specificity of the landforms and vegetation density.

Concretization

A network of suspended paths and viewpoints allow the public to access outstanding perspectives over a vast and varied landscape, while disciplining the flow of visitors, safeguarding natural sensitive areas with minimal costs of maintenance. The defined trails are punctuated by reference points, such as the domo circle bench, a shaded tunnel in the shape of a reptil, ‘Túnel de Lagarto’, or the cone shaped birdwatching shelter, ‘Observatório dos abelharucos’. The design concept and design aim at achieving a balance between recreation and nature conservation, demonstrating that it is possible to have an genuine nature park within the city.

The park’s design and construction process were challenging, and included adapting design solutions to the site’s specificities, functional needs, available budget and low level maintenance. Construction was organized in two phases: the recently built first phase is comprised of 11ha, whereas the construction of the second phase, comprised of 29ha, is due to begin at the end of 2021. The park was formally inaugurated in May 2021.

The Barrocal Park is the Gold Award winner at the WAN Awards 2020 in the Urban Landscape Category, Winner of the Architecture Masterprize 2020 in the Public Category and has received an Honorable Mention in the Landscape | Parks and Open Space category of the 2021 LOOP Design Awards.

Data

Landscape Architecture: Topiaris

Project Homepage: barrocal-parque.webflow.io/

Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects):

Architecture: Olavo Dias, Sérgio Sousa & Gonçalo Santos

Structural engineering: FTD – Pedro Delgado

Scientific coordination: Carlos Neto de Carvalho

Communication design: Desenharia – Ana Tiago & Pedro Silva e Sousa

Photography credits: Pedro Martins

Project location (Street, City, Country): Rua Adelino Semedo Barata, Castelo Branco, Portugal

Design year: 2016

Year Built: 2020

Manufacturer of urban equipment: AMOP

Manufacturer of playground equipment: PlayPlanet

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