The varied, multi-level gardens have been created as a series of large ‘bowls’ – inspired by the region’s traditional ceramics – manifesting as concave basins in the natural landscape, created by sculpted landforms. They define the five key areas of the park: there is (1) the Children’s Garden, (2) the Romantic Garden, (3) the Flower Garden, (4) the Orchard Garden and (5) the Demetrio Ribes Arts Plaza.
Water pools, jets, and channels welcome visitors to the park and encourage interaction and play. The colourful and sensory planting palette draws on the flora and fauna of the region, becoming a vital new ecological component within the city. A range of materials including marble, granite, and Calatorao limestone typical of Valencia are used throughout, with compacted gravel used for pathways within the garden.
Inspired by a poem written by Valencian writer Ausiàs March: ‘Water full of wisdom’ (Aigua plena de seny), the design is unified with water as its overarching theme. The design considers the water found in the immediate region, including the Túria River reserve, the irrigation channels of the agricultural plains (La Huerta), the lake within the Albufera Natural Park (Parc Natural De l’Albufera), and the Mediterranean Sea. Water is both a structural and restorative element organising the park's design. At each entrance of the park visitors are greeted by a unique water feature that filters into a canal that leads them inwards, as part of the scheme’s navigational strategy.
Parque Central also debuts a progressive sustainable drainage strategy, whereby the series of landformed bowls discreetly collect rainwater that drains into a buried centralised reservoir that treats and recycles water back to the city.
Developed over eight years, the first phase of the park now connects various neighbourhoods that were previously separated by the railway tracks and terminus. It has already precipitated urban renewal in the adjacent downtown barrios of Ruzafa - now popular with cafés, bars and boutique shops - and Malilla. The new park is part of a larger project that will eventually see the city’s main trainlines relocated underground to free up a total of 66 hectares of land, a project begun under the late former Mayor Rita Barbera. More than half of the area will be planted, and the completed 23ha park will help to resolve important problems by reintroducing biodiversity, creating new public space, providing cultural and office facilities, reversing physical and social segregation, improving the quality and supply of water, and increasing mobility and accessibility among the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.
The Parque Central project sits in Valencia’s long history of a city reinventing itself through large-scale urban development projects. The park is considered one of the city’s most significant urban redevelopments undertaken in the 21st century.
Valencia Parque Central
Carrer de les Filipines, 46006 Valencia
Gustafson Porter + Bowman
Valencia Parque Central Alta Velocidad 2003 S.A.
The brief outlined the City of Valencia's vision for the transformation of its railway infrastructure into a major urban initiative to the benefit of its citizens. Primarily, the City was looking for an urban solution to neighbourhoods separated by railway tracks in south central Valencia. The City wanted to recover a sizable area of its city centre, and to pursue goals such as closing off the historic area to urban expansion, the integration of neighbourhoods previously separated by the tracks, and to offer educational and social facilities. The City saw Valencia Parque Central as one of the last large-scale pieces of the urban puzzle missing from the city's development, and were looking for an urban solution that would celebrate its uniqueness from other European cities.
Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019
Client: Valencia Parque Central Alta Velocidad 2003 S.A. Project Joint-Venture Consortium: Gustafson Porter + Bowman – Nova Ingenieria – Grupotec – Borgos Pieper Landscape Architect / Lead Designer: Gustafson Porter + Bowman Project Manager and Cost Consultant: Nova Ingenieria Civil, Structural, M&E Engineer: Grupotec Architect: Borgos Pieper Water Feature Consultant: JML Water Feature Design Soil Consultant: Tim O’Hare Associates Lighting: Claude R. Engle Lighting Consultant
11.5 ha (first phase; total park 23 ha)
The project was won in an international competition in 2011, organised by the late former mayor of Valencia, Rita Barbera (1991-2015). Kathryn Gustafson and Mary Bowman's design was chosen unanimously through a competition that received a total of 36 proposals from 8 countries - winning against international competitors including Zaha Hadid Architects, Foreign Office Architects and West 8. Gustafson Porter + Bowman formed a joint venture with Valencia-based firms Nova Ingeniería and Grupotec engineers and Barcelona-based architects Borgos Pieper The project is a finalist in the World Architecture Festival’s 2019 Urban Landscape shortlist of 16 projects from around the world.
The colourful and sensory planting palette draws on the flora and fauna of the region, becoming a vital new ecological component within the city.
A range of materials including marble, granite, and Calatorao limestone typical of Valencia are used throughout, with compacted gravel used for pathways within the garden.