The beginning of El Botanico: from the ‘70s to 2012

Amongst the vast orange plantations that mark the agricultural landscape of Sagra, Alicante, set against the dramatic background of the surrounding Montgo mountains, you will find the oasis El Botanico.
El Botanico was built and planted in the early ‘70s as a private estate by a local nursery owner, to enjoy at the weekends and to experiment with plants for his nursery. In the existing setting of mainly Pinus halepensis he planted different alignments of palm trees, including Phoenix dactilifera, Washingtonia robusta and Washingtonia filifera. Over the years, he added more and more exotic and tropical trees and plants to the garden.

After El Botanico was sold, the new owner added additional layers of planting as well as new buildings to the estate, until she died in 2012.

El Botanico: From private estate to Garden Hotel & Retreat

In 2018, the estate was sold again; the new, current owner fell in love with the generous landscape of the region, discovering the majestic palm trees and extraordinary but overgrown and abandoned El Botanico.
Her main objective was to renovate the garden and bring its full potential and identity back to life, transforming the estate into a Garden Hotel & Retreat where one could stay, recharge and enjoy the garden as well as its diverse and stunning surrounding landscape of mountains, valleys and sea.

Renovation plan for the heritage of El Botanico: Approach, spatial concept and process

Studio Anne-Fleur Aronstein provided a masterplan and design for the renovation of El Botanico. When we first came to the site, the only readable structure of the garden was the tree layer. Looking up, we found ourselves in paradise, however looking straight ahead or down to towards the ground, we got lost in different paving and materials, undefined spaces, incoherent planting and circulation. Visual noise made it hard to experience and enjoy the garden. Inspired by the exotic nature of this garden, its impressive palm tree layer, the concept of ‘impermanence’ (as discussed by Gilles Clement) and the work of Roberto Burle Marx, we created a new vision and an approach.

The plan consisted of restructuring the garden in keeping with the existing heritage. A spatial planting principle helped create structure in the garden, enhancing the existing tree layer and creating different ambiances and areas.

By designing clear transitions between private and communal outdoor spaces, creating fluid access and circulation throughout the garden as well as designing multiple places, one can now stroll, sit, rest, lay and enjoy many different spaces, ambiances and vegetation of the garden. Narrow pathways end up in open spaces. We created intimate corners and terraces, where one can recline in a hammock, rest on a bench or sunbathe close to the pool.
Intensive groundwork and levelling were necessary to create a clear and coherent structure throughout the garden. Some of the indigenous palms, chamaerops humilis, that had grown everywhere over the years were transplanted as we created a secondary tree layer below the existing dominant higher palm and pine trees.

The central pond was accessible again, and has become a true place of reflection and light in the garden.

The remarkable architecture of the main building ‘Casa Azul’, reminds us of the brutalist style we know from Brazil, as well as the colorful work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. We changed the colors of some buildings as well as of the ‘Fronton’ – the court for the Spanish Pelota game – to enhance these vivid color contrasts.

Color is an important element in this garden; however, flowers don’t play an essential role in this.
The accent lies specifically on the different hues of green and the sculptural shape of the exotic foliage, such as ferns, alocasias, philondendrons, zamsia and cycas. It is the vegetation that creates strong superpositions and contrasts with the colorful architecture. The botanical palette has been expanded with more than 12 new species of palm trees, and approximately 40 tropical, exotic plants and cacti.
Within part of the renovated gardens, home to the olive and orange orchards, the avocado, mango, chirimoya, litchi and goyave trees, we planted a productive vegetable garden to provide guests with home grown produce. El Botanico has become a place to relax, unwind, connect with nature and within.

El Botanico: From a forgotten heritage to a Garden Hotel

El Botanico is open to the public, allowing people from all over Europe to come and enjoy the silence and peace of the site, and its surroundings. Neighbors, clients and friends come back to connect to the magical energy of this place and enjoy the cool microclimate under the trees in summer. El Botanico has continued to develop and grow over the last 40 years, and it will continue to thrive in this way over the coming decades. The garden is still, and will always be, in a process of evolution.

Location: Carrer de Tormos, 15, 03795 Sagra, Alicante, Spain
Surface: 15.300 m2
Design year: 2019
Year Completed: 2020-2022


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