The Guaíba Waterfront Urban Park is a 1.5km and 5,7ha intervention in Porto Alegre, the largest metropolis in Southern Brazil with 1.5 million population, 4.2 million in a metropolitan scale. The park, which is a local government initiative, reconnects the city and the population with its most precious landscape: the Guaíba waterfront.
This project brings life to an infill area that was created to be part of the food control system of Porto Alegre. In building this infill, the riparian environment was adversely affected. Also, as prior to the project it had no use and was disconnected from the surrounding city life, creating a somewhat hostile area with serious security, degradation and abandonment problems. Those are some of the issues that the Park seeks to mitigate.
As an urban and environmental regeneration project, the intervention will greatly improve the porto-alegrenses’ quality of life, with social, economic and environmental systemic impacts. It comes to connect people, culture, history and nature in a virtuous circle of valorization.
Adjacent to the downtown area, the park is very well connected to the urban fabric, with facilitated access to pedestrians and bikers, metro, bus and cars.
With a carefully conceived program, it will carry all the necessary elements to re-energize the city center through increased tourism, valorization of the built stock and recuperation of the natural environment. It is an integrating project, bridging several elements of the built and natural environment that exist in the surrounding area, allowing people to gather and enjoy this new shared space in the city. All the necessary infrastructure to address the visitor’s needs are present in the park, such as pubs, cafes, sports facilities and so on. A previously onerous area becomes an important asset for the city, a sustainability element, reducing costs and adding value.
The architectural qualities of the project are connected to the natural way by which it inserts itself in the landscape, taking advantage of the area’s topography to accommodate the necessary infrastructures and to create belvederes to contemplate the surrounding scenery. The materials are concrete, steel, wood and glass in natural colors, so to gain lightness. The curved shapes relate to the movement of the waters, unfolding gently along the terrain. They take advantage of the plasticity of the concrete to generate only essential forms.
The scenic dimension of the estuary will be enhanced by the provision of a qualified stage for its appreciation. The stairways that run along the project provide the perfect seating area for the glorious sunset, “the most beautiful one in the world”.
An important element of the project is the light. During the day, the sunlight and its reflections in the Guaíba waters guide the spectacle; after the sunset, architecture starts its own show, with a lightning project that creates, on the pavements of the park, a semblance of the night starry sky.
The landscape project is mindful of the ecological aspects of the riparian habitat and seeks to reintroduce the native species of this environment, conducing to its regeneration. The native remaining vegetation was left undisturbed and the architectural features accommodated themselves around it. To each “microclimate” (for example, the areas subject to natural floods, and drier areas higher up), specific species were selected, including the creation of an indigenous aquatic plants garden. Overall, it works not only as a environment regeneration project, but also as a permanent, live and open environmental education class.
Departing from the recuperation of the natural environment and the creation of a new, vibrant address is the city, the Park will become a place for cultural and artistic expression, both of traditional manifestations, such as the SemanaFarroupilha (folkloric celebration) and new cultural and artistic forms.
The built heritage present in the region – the Gasômetro cultural center, the CaisMauá docklands and the Civic Center – will gain new visibility and connectivity. The constant inflow of people at the park will spill over the entire downtown area, increasing the public for these attractions, as well as injecting new pace for the economic activities in the region.
By the intelligent use of architecture, landscaping and light design, in conjunction with a wide array of activities, Porto Alegre will gain a sustainable, vibrant place that shows how the “marriage” of manmade interventions and nature can have a positive impact on both. It is the physical and symbolic re-encounter of Porto Alegre and its waters, creating a vibrant and sustainable address.