Parque De Los Deseos: a park designed for evenings

Shorter days mean longer nights. Here in Brisbane that means more opportunity to enjoy being outdoors in the evenings. Unfortunately, most of our parks are not designed to take full advantage of the cool respite arriving at the end of the day.

By contrast, this project in Medellin, Colombia, was specially designed to have visitors learning about, and looking up into the night sky.

This is Parque De Los Deseos – the Park of Wishes. It was designed with elements that reveal aspects of energy and acoustics, as well as astrology.

These shells bounce voices back and forth:

Water jets pulse with energy and rhythm:

Even the seating is designed to direct your gaze upwards, towards the stars.

These ones keep out the sun during the day.

These ones keep out the sun during the day.

While these ones can be spun around to find the best view.

While these ones can be spun around to find the best view.

Shade trees and structures are grouped around the perimeter of the park, providing daytime shelter.

A station for Medellin’s brilliant above-ground metro is located at the northern edge of the park, and the University of Antioquia campus is directly to the west, so the park is well utilised throughout the day.

Stairs lead directly from the metro platforms into the park.

Stairs lead directly from the metro platforms into the park.

This is a direct contrast to not-too-distant decades when the planetarium, botanic gardens and even the university considered moving from this part of the city during the years of cocaine war.

Sloping surfaces are covered in turf and timber, and used for sitting, lounging, and of course, people watching.

In the centre of Parque De Los Deseos is a large open plaza. It is framed at each end by buildings that form the Planetario de Medellin.

Established in 1984 the planetarium buildings include a science centre and library, auditorium, museum which provides information on the ancient Muisca tribe, and a visitor shop and café. On cooler days the plaza soaks up warmth from the sun.

At night, movies can be projected onto the building walls. 

Image: Flickr user Miguel Olaya, under Creative Commons license.

Image: Flickr user Miguel Olaya, under Creative Commons license.

Other festivals and events regularly take advantage of the location and evening cool, filling the plaza with people.

Earth Hour. Image: Flickr user Earth Hour Global, under Creative Commons License.

Earth Hour. Image: Flickr user Earth Hour Global, under Creative Commons License.

Image: Flickr user Telemedellin, under Creative Commons license.

Image: Flickr user Telemedellin, under Creative Commons license.

Parque De Los Deseos is a deceptively simple park, with a minimal palette of materials and planting. It is robust, and copes equally well with large volumes of pedestrian traffic and small intimate gatherings.

But perhaps its greatest lesson lies in the way it takes a potential disadvantage – the hot, humid Medellin weather – and responds with a park that embraces the coolest part of the day and celebrates the beauty of the night sky.

Image: Flickr user Alejandra Garcia, under Creative Commons License.

Image: Flickr user Alejandra Garcia, under Creative Commons License.

 

Now it’s over to you.

What did you think of Parque De Los Deseos? Do you think there’s an opportunity to introduce more night-time use into a city park you know? And what did you think of those twirling seat-beds? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you know someone else who might find this interesting, why not share it.

See you soon for more garden, landscape and design stories.

Parque del Agua: the gift of water

What could be more welcome on a hot, sticky day than a cool, shady park?

Not much, I reckon, unless it’s a cool, shady park that sells ice cream.

With that in mind, welcome to Parque del Agua – ‘Water Park’ – in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Visiting Bucaramanga involves landing at Palonegra airport. And landing at Palonegra airport involves descending at rapid speed towards a runway that seems to be perched on top of the steepest mountain in South America. Until the moment you actually hit the tarmac, all that is visible out the airplane windows are similarly towering mountains all around, and the sheer drop below.

It’s worth it though, because this is a ripper of a park.

It sits on a corner site, roughly D-shaped, and the ground rises steeply up 20 metres from the bounding streets.

Glimpsed views of the surrounding streets.

Glimpsed views of the surrounding streets.

Stone steps and ramping pathways negotiate the sloping terrain.

Stone steps and ramping pathways negotiate the sloping terrain.

Inside, angled stone paths wrap around the curving part of the ‘D’, and are joined at the top of the hill by a long timber deck.

Landscapology_Agua6.jpg
Landscapology_Agua7.jpg

The planting is lush and luxuriant, with foliage plants, climbers, and flowering tropical species.

Existing mature trees on the site were incorporated into the planting design.

Existing mature trees on the site were incorporated into the planting design.

A towering bamboo canopy arches over the timber deck, shading an equally long bench seat, and directing attention to a series of stone pillars standing between steep cascades.

Water is the real star here. From the top of the hill it splashes, pulses, sprays and rushes to the bottom, stopping only to fan out in wide, flat pools. The sound of water is everywhere too, quieting the outside traffic and allowing groups to converse without being overheard.

Water is also the surprise at Parque del Agua. Why? Because this is a park owned and operated by the local water treatment authority. The Acueducto Metropolitano de Bucaramanga (AMB), is also headquartered here.

The AMB headquarters buildings also step down the sloping site, joined by aerial walkways that shade the paths below.

The AMB headquarters buildings also step down the sloping site, joined by aerial walkways that shade the paths below.

At its establishment in 1916 the AMB was charged with supplying water to Bucaramanga and two other nearby towns.  As demand grew so did the need for additional facilities, which the AMB developed and operated until 1975, when it was bought by the local council. 

From its early days the primary water treatment plant was located here at Morrorico, on the eastern fringe of the city.  The actual treatment facility occupied only a small portion of the large land-holding, and local residents became used to enjoying the spontaneous tropical landscape and lawns of the park-like grounds. 

Expansion of the plant reduced the amount of land available, and after the council buy-out a shared company took responsibility for water treatment and supply.  Public use of the land dwindled and the once vibrant community gathering place became neglected. 

Fast-forward to 2001, when AMB Manager Victor Azuero Diaz proposed moving the company’s  administrative functions back to Morrorico.  With the support of the Mayor a park was proposed for the site, in homage to the former public appropriation of the land for recreation. 

When you understand this, the water really makes sense. The two ways water is used in the park (fast-flowing and still pools) reflects the way it is used in water treatment engineering.

The brightly coloured animal artworks on the wall (left) are illuminated at night, and supplemented at Christmas by other installations throughout the park, drawing big crowds. The Planning Department (right) enjoys prime position in the centre of the park.

The brightly coloured animal artworks on the wall (left) are illuminated at night, and supplemented at Christmas by other installations throughout the park, drawing big crowds. The Planning Department (right) enjoys prime position in the centre of the park.

Although the administration of the system is the main activity, functional run-off tanks still operate on the site.  Where the park could undoubtedly go further is in pushing its abundant planting and water to be more than just ornamental.  As well as creating a welcoming cool environment for visitors, how marvellous would it be if they actively showed how rainwater could be detained and slowly released to reduce local flooding, or how biological treatment could help cleanse of water prior to its release back into the catchment, both worthwhile exercises in a tropical environment. 

Although in Brisbane we would probably call these missed opportunities, we should not underestimate the success of Parque del Agua. It is well constructed, with inventive use of just a few materials: stone, gravel, concrete and timber.

It’s a well-loved, well-patronised local landmark, with a lot to teach us about the ways land associated with a municipal utility authority can be effectively made available for public use and enjoyment. And on a hot, sticky day, it sells ice cream!

 

Now it’s over to you.

What did you think of Parque del Agua? Do you think more of our public utilities and authorities should be trying to ‘give back’ to their customers and communities in such a way? Let me know in the comments below.

And don’t forget, sharing is caring, so if you know someone else who might find this interesting, why not share it.

See you soon for more garden, landscape and design stories.

 

Note: Parque del Agua was designed by Lorenzo Castro, Michelle Cescas, Alfonso Leyva and Geman Samper. It is located at the corner of Carrera 34 and Calle 20, Bucaramanga, Santander, Colombia. Find out more about the history and opening hours at the AMB website (in Spanish).

This project is included in the chapter on Co-location Parks in Future Park.