Barrocal is a 40ha area with elements of geological, archaeological and natural value. It is located on the outskirts of Castelo Branco, a city located in the interior of Portugal and a two-hour drive away from Lisbon. Its landscape character is determined by – and named after – the presence of huge granitic natural blocks with very particular shapes. Its roughness allowed for the preservation of its natural character over time and it became a sanctuary for fauna and flora. In this context, the Municipality of Castelo Branco determined that the creation of a Park would be essential for the preservation, study and promotion of Barrocal.
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 science, geological and archaeological interpretation site, a nature conservation site and a nature tourism destination.
Barrocal influenced Castelo Branco’s urban expansion and is strongly imprinted in the city’s identity, thus inspiring the park’s ecological design proposal. The minimalistic subtleness of the park’s layout holds a poetic aura which unfolds in every small detail, while the design interventions become a stage for people to contemplate and experience the landscape. The park’s masterplan was entirely designed on-site, 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 Barrocal’s particular landforms and its vegetation density. Essential infrastructures were designed, aiming at a minimum impact on the landscape. A network of wooden and metal suspended paths (carreiros) and viewpoints (mirantes) allow the public to access exceptional 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 (domo circle), a shaded tunnel (lagarto tunnel) or the cone shaped bird watching shelter (abelharucos birdwatching observatory). These subtle and original design interventions aim at achieving a balance between recreation and nature conservation, confirming that it is possible to have an authentic natural park in an urban context.
The park’s design and construction was challenging and was marked with evolving processes, while adapting layout and design solutions to the site’s specificities, as well as to legislation, function needs, budget and maintenance. Construction was organized in two phases: the recently built first phase is comprised of 11ha, while the second phase, comprised of 29ha, will start construction at the end of 2020. The park’s opening was foreseen for the end of April, but postponed due to the current global pandemic situation. Nevertheless, the park is already sporadically used by the local population and nature lovers who often share their positive impressions. Such positive feedback is hopefully a preview of Barrocal’s expected success.
BARROCAL PARK, CASTELO BRANCO, Portugal
Project name: Barrocal Park
Project category: Public Project
Role of entrant in the project: Landscape Architect & Project coordinator
Topiaris Landscape Architecture team: Teresa Barão, Luis Ribeiro, Catarina Viana, Elsa Calhau, André Godinho, Rita Salgado, Ana Lemos
Client: Municipality of Castelo Branco
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Architecture: Olavo Dias, Sérgio Sousa & Gonçalo Santos
Irrigation Engineer: Bartolomeu Perestrello
Structures: FTD – Pedro Delgado
Communication design: Desenharia – Ana Tiago & Pedro Silva e Sousa
Photography: Pedro Martins
Project location: Rua Adelino Semedo Barata, Castelo Branco, Portugal
Design year: 2016
Year built: 2020