Following the relocation of high-speed trains below ground, Valencia’s Parque Central is one of the city’s most significant redevelopments to date. The 66-hectare site has received €73m of investment and will create a new contemporary public park which celebrates the culture of the region. This 23-hectare park will become the social heart of the city, uniting eastern and western neighbourhoods that were previously divided by the railway. Eventually it will also connect other areas of the city to a 43-hectare redeveloped Southern zone.
Defined by bold features and the use of water throughout, the project aims to distil the historical, cultural and geographical uniqueness of Valencia into an engaging, contemporary park and sustainable urban public space. Inspired by a poem written by Valencian writer Ausiàs March, ‘Aigua plena de seny’, (water full of wisdom), our design acknowledges Valencia’s unique position as a major trading and cultural centre in European history and its location between several ecological habitats: the Turia River reserve, the agricultural plain (La Huerta), the Albufera Natural Park and the Mediterranean Sea.
The first phase (11.5ha) is comprised of a series of varied, multi-level gardens and re-purposed railway buildings that collectively serve as a focal point for a range of age groups and community uses. It is characterised with areas for art, sports, recreational activities, and community events that refer to three quintessential Valencian characteristics: water, food, and the Mediterranean landscape.
References to the local tradition of ceramics and earthenware are expressed through the design of ‘bowls’, which provide a unifying gesture with water as its overarching theme. These bowl-like spaces or ‘Ullal’ in Valencian, are created through sculpted landforms, and when completed will create spaces for art, programmed activities, the community, history and cultural events. Water pools, jets, and channels welcome people to the park and encourage interaction and play. The colourful and sensory planting palette draws on the flora and fauna of the region and has become a vital new ecological component within the city. Materials such as marble, granite, and Calatorao limestone, typical of Valencia, are used with compacted gravel for pathways throughout the park.
Developed over eight years, the first phase has precipitated urban renewal in the adjacent urban district of Russafa, now popular with cafés, bars and boutique shops. Following the construction of the remaining two phases over the coming years, the completed 23ha park will unite neighbourhoods that are currently divided by railway lines.
The project was won in international competition in 2011, when Gustafson Porter + Bowman formed a joint venture with Valencia-based firms Nova Ingeniería Project Management and Grupotec Engineers, and Barcelona-based architects, Borgos Pieper.
Landscape Architecture: Gustafson Porter + Bowman
Other designers involved in the design of the landscape: Borgos Pieper Architects, Nova Ingenieria – Project Management, Grupotec – Engineering
Design year: 2011
Year Built: 2019
Photographer: Richard Bloom
Manufacturer of urban equipment: Escofet, Urbidermis, Mata, Durbanis, Colomer, Setga
Manufacturer of playground equipment: BDU, Kompan, Action Park