Contemporary problems need contemporary solutions.
The challenge brought forth by this project is one of them. To overcome today’s disarticulated urban expansion that discourages natural resources and urban life, a proper discussion between members of a multi-disciplinary team is essential. For this reason this group of young designers came together in the attempt to create innovative designs that integrate natural and artificial elements into complete, multi-functional and sustainable urban systems that promote quality urban lifestyles in overall harmonic landscapes.
This project, part of financed large scale urban system development strategy called “Inventar a Cidade”, evolved from the competition phase of Europan 9 into what is now a regenerated part of the city of Santo Tirso. It was an opportunity to transform a “non-place” into a space of increased value for the social, urban and natural environment of the city. Using local culture, ecology and tradition as construction guidelines, together with sustainable and integrated design methods, this space was morphed into a living organism that is structured by various scales, rhythms, and evolution times in a contemporary park/city context.
As an urban park (1.54hectares) the intention was to create connexions through interpretive pathways in close contact with nature while redefining the local landscape simply by bringing forth the potential that it already exhumed. The project team aimed to render its character transparent, give it identity, and let it be appropriated by the population. Its new natural/urban image and function are the heart of this organism and the interaction base for all parts of the project – built, non-built, functional, pre-existing, natural, biological, human… Complemented with a web of environmentally friendly pathways, equipment, and programs (educational, cultural, recreational, etc.), this natural/artificial structure, while connecting to its surroundings, guarantees attractiveness, and economical, social and environmental sustainability. It is a place that unravels itself as the user, through various velocities, perceives the whole, consequently becoming an active element in the landscape.
The act of transforming this space into a pedagogical and democratic one with “green equipment” enables awareness for users as to good environmental practices, encouraging there interaction with nature, creating different types of recreation for various social classes and age. Allied to these principles is the experimentation with new design solutions along with solutions for rational management of resources, positively contributing to low maintenance (vegetation species adapted to soil and climatic conditions of the region, recyclable materials, energy efficient equipment and low consumption irrigation).
To begin to understand the concept of this project, it is best to consider its four essential layers: The “Living Ground”, conceived as a biological and moistness gradient, transiting in-between dry and humid zones, that promotes ecological niches that explore the local and new plant’s polyvalence while stimulating biodiversity. To enrich the living experience and sensation throughout the dry and humid zones, trees and low vegetation species were added accordingly to add biodiversity, colour, texture, movement and sent.
The “Active Mesh” that promotes (for the handicapped inclusively) and connectivity throughout the site, through various pathways in a much geometrized layout, with diverse expressions that provide motion in differential velocities. On the south-west side we have a main platform that was conceived as concrete “blanket” that covers the site morphology and forms a parking area, a square with sitting areas, stairs and ramps. This area connects to the main circulation pathway on the high ground which is also a bike path in permeable concrete. For secondary and interpretive pathways we have elevated platforms constructed in weather treated wood, composite wood deck and side metal plating.
The “Interpretive Sculptures” are urban elements, generators of multifunctional space appropriation that assure public space life while having integrated into their design all public space equipment, in a new dimension with form and function. These sculptures, origami inspired, contrast with the vegetation in colour and geometry and are built with steel framing covered with an anti-vandalism treated fibreglass. They are equipped with garbage bins, sitting areas, multimedia equipment, and electrical outlets, and will also have an informative component by signalling the vegetation in their surroundings.
The “Dwellers”, consist of the people as active elements in this environment, sculpting the way this place is used, lived and perceived.