Landscape: A place of cultivation

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Assoc. Prof. Pat Brown attended the ECLAS Conference held this year at the Faculty of Science, University of Porto, Portugal.  ECLAS represents the interests of the academic community of landscape architects and landscape planners within the wider European social and institutional context. ECLAS provides an internationally recognized forum for academic exchange and international cooperation between universities working in the field of landscape architecture, and represents a key platform for discussion of specific issues currently of concern within the discipline. The conference is the premier event for landscape architecture education in Europe each year.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the event resulting in the formation of the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools renamed European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) in 2000.  In 2006 the Journal of Landscape Architecture (JoLA) was published which is now an established academic journal issued 3 times per year featuring critical reviews of landscape projects plus essays and research articles.  This year’s conference featured a number of key note speakers including Michael van Gessel from The Netherlands, Martha Fajardo from Columbia, Tom Armour of Arup from the UK, Jack Ahern from USA and Joao Nunes of Portugal.

Landscape: A place of cultivation – the following text is an extract from the introduction essay by Paulo Farinha

“Landscape is a meeting place of interests and disciplines…… It is grounded on the ability of perceiving, experiencing and sharing dynamics of the place we live in.  Landscape is a potent interface embracing and showing the pulse of the planet.

Cultivation is about growing things, it concerns developing spatial opportunities, leads to a multitude of possibilities and is the basis of our existence; the very core of Culture.  People comprehend and cherish the experience of cultivation, and land turns into landscape.”

Key note speakers included Tom Armour of Arup and author of the recent ‘Cities Alive – Rethinking green infrastructure’ report.  Tom’s paper, The role of green infrastructure in the optimization of urban land’, discussed the role of cities as centres of culture, technology, commerce and learning but which also places which need to thrive as healthy attractive places.  Rethinking green infrastructure – shows how the creation of a linked ‘city ecosystem’ that encompasses parks and open spaces; urban trees, streets, squares; woodland and waterways can help create healthier, safer and more prosperous cities.

The paper focused on urban green (and blue) infrastructure research and the vital functions provided by green infrastructure to cities.  Creating and developing green infrastructure supports healthy environments for citizens whilst providing social and economic benefits too.  Green infrastructure also profides resilience to climate change effects such as flooding, heat island affects and drought whilst raising property values and boosting economic investment.  The paper described the advantages of promoting green infrastructure in cites by increasing local biodiversity plus improving habitats in the provision of green roofs and walls thus improving air quality and reducing ‘flash’ flooding.  Tom sees green infrastructure and landscaping as an essential component in the design and planning of urban environments and that better designed cities lead to improved quality of life for citizens.

Delegates were offered a series of tours –

  • By the Duoro River

The watershed of the river Douro catches its water in a vast territory that is about 1/4th of the Iberian Peninsula. The estuary of the Douro stays between the cities of Porto and Gaia and merges with the Atlantic. It is referred as Cabedelo, a Local Natural Reserve; due to its location it is a well-known place for bird watching migratory species.  The riverfront of today is the outcome from a Master Plan by the architects Alves Costa and Sérgio Fernandez (2005). The plan has changed significantly the use of public space along this special walkway centered in Afurada, a village still caring the spirit of a fishing community, this has become a significant site for recreation.

  • Serralves Park 

Serralves is an 18 hectares estate in Porto. Initially a privately owned property, it was bought by the Portuguese Sate in 1988. Today it is the headquarters of the Serralves Foundation and the home of a Contemporary Art Museum open to the public in 1999, a project by architect Alvaro Siza Vieira. The museum garden was designed by João Gomes da Silva, a Portuguese landscape architect.  The estate was built in the 1930s following the project of the French architect Jacques Gréber (1882-1962). It is a singular reference within Portugal’s garden art that has undergone a series of restoration projects in the last 30 years.  The estate designed in the ‘Country Estate’ style, as referred by Norman Newton, is particularly well kept. The art deco villa is the result of the collaboration of many architects and designers, such as Marques da Silva, Charles Siclis, Jacques Émile Ruhlmann, René Lalique and Edgar Brandt.

  • City Park

Porto City Park is about 80 hectares, being the largest of its kind in Portugal. With approximately 1300 m long and 600 m wide, the park is located along the west side of  Boavista Avenue, linking Porto city to Matosinhos city, and stretching all the way to the Atlantic.  The City Park has been part of the city’s master plans for a few century decades in the 20th century. In 1993 it opened partially to the public, but the construction work lasted until 2002. The author is the landscape architect Sidónio Pardal. Today the vegetation has matured significantly, benefiting from the mildness of the climate and resisting the harshness of the sea wind. The park became a very interesting wildlife urban habitat and is used not just by Porto’s inhabitants but it also attracts visitors from all around.

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