gustafson porter + bowman completes first phase of valencia's 'parque central'

gustafson porter + bowman completes first phase of valencia's 'parque central'

gustafson porter + bowman has completed the first phase of ‘parque central’, a new urban landscape formerly occupied by railway lines and industrial land in the center of valencia, spain. the first phase of the project provides a new focal green space for a range of age groups and community uses and is characterized with areas for art, activities, and community events that refer to three characteristics of the spanish city: water, food, and the mediterranean landscape.

gustafson porter bowman valencia
all images © richard bloom, unless otherwise stated



gustafson porter + bowman’s design comprises a series of multi-level gardens that have been created as a series of large ‘bowls’, inspired by the region’s traditional ceramics. they define the six areas of the scheme and attract visitors to the heart of the site where a former agricultural building (alquería) has been renovated to serve as the park’s offices. there is the children’s garden, the romantic garden, the flower garden, the orchard garden, and the demetrio ribes arts plaza.

gustafson porter bowman valencia



‘we feel proud of what we have achieved with the first phase of parque central,’ says mary bowman, partner at gustafson porter + bowman. ‘valencia is a spanish city and a mediterranean city like no other, with a rich history of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, not to mention its trade history and history of artisanal and artistic pursuits. I believe we have been successful in capturing the unique qualities of valencia, delivering a park that is evocative, stimulating, and full of unexpected sensory experiences.’

gustafson porter bowman valencia



gustafson porter + bowman used a range of materials including marble, granite, and calatorao limestone typical of valencia. the planting palette draws on the flora and fauna of the region, becoming a vital new ecological component and public space in the city. the vegetation strategy is based on the general concept of creating zones that represent the natural and cultural landscapes of the region. the park includes 1,000 trees, 85,000 bushes and 70 herb species which are all native to the area or are varieties of native plants or non-invasive plants adapted to the mediterranean climate.

gustafson porter bowman valencia



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 sustainable drainage system, whereby the series of landformed bowls discreetly collect rainwater which drains into a buried centralized reservoir that treats and recycles water back to the city.

gustafson porter bowman valencia



developed over eight years, the first phase of the park now connects various neighborhoods that were previously separated by the railway lines and terminus. 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. more than half of this area will be planted, and the completed 23 hectare 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 neighborhoods.



the project was won in an international competition in 2011, when gustafson porter + bowman formed a joint venture with valencia-based firms nova ingeniería and grupotec engineers and barcelona-based architects borgos pieper – winning against international competitors including zaha hadid architects, foreign office architects, and west 8. gustafson porter + bowman recently won the international competition to re-imagine the site of the eiffel tower in paris, see the plans in full here.

image © zeppelin



UPDATE: this project has been shortlisted in the ‘landscape – urban projects’ category at the 2019 world architecture festival.



project info:


client: valencia parque central alta velocidad 2003 S.A.
project duration: 2011-2019 (first phase)
size: 11.5ha (first phase) / 23ha (total park)
budget: €16m (first phase)
JVC: gustafson porter + bowman – nova ingenieria – grupotecborgos pieper
landscape architect and lead designer: gustafson porter + bowman
project management 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 IV

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