Asprela Central Park is the result of a collaborative partnership between the University of Porto, the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, the Municipality of Porto, Águas do Porto – EM, and the Portuguese Environmental Agency – APA. Sharing a common vision, these stakeholders promoted the development of an urban park. Encompassing an area of approximately 56.800 square meters, it represents a commitment to mitigating the impacts of climate change, enhancing biodiversity, and fostering human connection with nature. The project was designed by a team of landscape architects supported by the contribution of several disciplinary experts in ecology, architecture, hydraulic engineering, structural engineering, and electrical engineering. This diversity in disciplinary perspectives has contributed to a design that harmoniously integrates various elements of the natural and built environments.
Asprela Central Park’s design emphasizes the continuity of urban greenery, optimization of vegetation-covered space, and the enhancement of natural habitats. Critical to its design is the functioning of existing watercourses, which plays a crucial role in urban climate amelioration, improving soil permeability, and combating the problems associated with global warming. This ecological and naturalistic approach underpins the design philosophy, promoting the symbiotic relationship between urban growth and environmental preservation.
The park’s intervention program builds upon pre-existing values and focuses on two distinct yet complementary areas: wetlands and associated slopes, and dry areas. The wetlands underwent a transformation through a naturalistic layout based on the recovery and reshaping the bed of watercourses and their banks. This process involved the use of existing tree vegetation, terrain modelling, and rock fillings to structurally stabilize the watercourse. The dry areas, on the other hand, were designed with a more eclectic and geometric layout, structured by clearings and small groves. These spaces are accessible by pedestrian and cycling paths that feature resting areas and allow access to large clearings for active recreation.
A defining feature of Asprela Central Park is its innovative water management strategy, which places an emphasis on restoring the natural hydrological cycle. The project features retention ponds, natural swales, rain gardens and permeable surfaces to encourage water infiltration into the underground aquifers and reduce surface runoff. This strategic approach to water management reaches its peak with the restoration of the two streams, Manga and Asprela and the introduction of an earth dam designed to retain 10,000 cubic meters of water during peak rain events. This feature, embodying principles of Nature-Based Solutions, allows the park to serve as a large retention basin, effectively preventing flooding, and safeguarding the neighbouring metro line.
The park showcases multiple landscape features, from water bodies to over 1,600 trees, comprising 900 newly planted and more than 700 preserved. These characteristics, complemented by naturalized streams and over two kilometres of accessible pedestrian and cycle paths, create an inviting, inclusive, and immersive environment for visitors. The park’s accessibility design considerations extend to individuals with reduced mobility, ensuring the enjoyment of this urban green space by all.
Asprela Park serves as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Asprela university campus, enhancing its centrality within the urban fabric of the city of Porto. By promoting urban, environmental, and landscape quality, the park significantly improves the quality of life for a large community of students, teachers, researchers, patients of the nearby hospitals and the public at large. Asprela Park is a testament to what can be achieved when urban planning embraces the principles of sustainability, inclusivity, and environmental stewardship. It sets a strong precedent for future urban developments, shining a light on the path towards a sustainable and resilient urban future. It is a reminder that the health, well-being, and environmental resilience of urban spaces are intertwined, and that innovative, ecologically sensitive design can lead to the creation of sustainable cities.
Landscape architecture: FCUP – Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto
Hydraulics: FEUP – Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto
Civil Engineering: JCT Engineering consultants
Parque da Asprela,
Rua Júlio Amaral de Carvalho 45,
Design year: 2016-2018
Year Completed: 2022