VAM10 architecture and landscape: The project is about developing a garden in Valencia, on an area of just over four thousand square meters, strongly marked by the neighborhood of a 200-year-old Botanical Garden and historical city skyline. Due to its small size and unique location, the project was treated with the thoroughness of a miniature painting, where there is an effort of concentration to show the neglected aspects of history and culture of Valencia Gardening, in a contained and accurate way, with precise movements and without losing any detail. This culture, so bright during the XV and XVI century and largely unknown today, was chaired by ornamental planting of citrus trees. The Garden of the Hesperides transmits and reintroduces this culture to our botanical and aesthetic tradition, through a contemporary constructive language, in order to transform it into feelings to the visitor, last receptors of the work, so that it becomes part of their urban heritage.
In fact, the project is just the answer to the questions we have been suggesting, both the specific location of the garden and the purpose of providing new languages to the context of nowadays urban landscape. Opposite to the main current choice in larger cities of the so-called “green zones”, understood and offered to the citizen as consuming material, our option was to design a garden as a place that would provide a kinder relationship with nature, where contemplation and simple fact of being in the garden are the main targets, knowing we are part of it since the moment we pass through the walls and find ourselves in a different atmosphere.
Therefore, we could say that the garden provides a fruitful interaction between surround urban landscape and visitors. There is a sought reciprocity, a dialogue between the garden with its surrounding; even from outside the walls, the garden is part of the urban landscape: its trees blend with the vegetation of the Botanical Garden, the green skyline frames the background domes, without hiding or excluding them, but attracting them inside the space. At the same time, the existing urban landscape is now part of the new garden, of the reflection of adjacent trees in water, of palm silhouettes that bind to others in the distance, of the mix of citrus smell in the air, of the guiding geometry.
Besides, the garden also talks to visitors and tells them a tale: about Hesperides, the nymphs who guarded the golden apples which Hera had planted in her garden. According to mythology, Hercules, to become a hero, beat down the dragon and he managed to steal the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. Because of that, the desperate nymphs became elm, willow and poplar, respectively, as we could see them in the garden. The sculptures themselves tell the same story, located at ground level, as another visitor.
They remind us Rilke’s poems, where the human hopes and disappointments are living in places like the gardens where build up an inner world. Thus, people are not watching the statues, but sculptures are those that are observing with long look and waiting for people to tell their story:
… “Look how the cypress darken in meadows, look at the forbidden groves where the shapes with marble gestures are long waiting, whose eyes are upon us …”
Through the whisper of water, a deep and diffuse information existing in our mind appears and materializes through crossing roads, enclosed garden, support walls where orange and lemon trees form trellises which tell us about the ancient techniques of crop. Terraced gangways to show the citrus collection, remembering those Valencian gardens whose description amazed so much the Medici that instituted it in Italy. Later, France and Germany, where the citrus collecting gave not only an aesthetic and botanical quality to the garden, but also it was even a symbol of power, evolving into a type of flower constructions, the “Orangeries”. These structures were designed to shelter citrus collections in winter, in gardens where, not having the appropriate climate, they were, by no means, ready to give up growing them.
The mythological scene, supported by intermittent cypress walls, and the collection of citrus, converges in a generous esplanade that structures linearly the garden. At the opposite side, a small fountain reflects a sculpture of Aphrodite, protector goddess of gardens, which is sitting on the edge. At the other bound, an arbor welcomes visitors between acanthus leaves and bougainvillea. The four gates contain the sealed image of the garden. Two of them are made of concrete, seeming fused with the outside wall. The other two sheet steel gates suggest some literary passages on the mythical scene which takes place inside.
The rest of the vegetation that appears in the inner square is accurate and contained. It closely fits to the designed surfaces, sticking to walls and floor like small colored tiles forming carpets. The garden has different readings, none dominant, all possible. Vegetable and mineral are complementary, abstract elements themselves seeking sensations, colors, sounds, shapes, textures, aromas that accompany the myth, this myth that Thomas Mann called “Solemn raiment of mystery that makes present the past and future.”
Landscape Architecture: VAM10 architecture and landscape / MARIA TERESA SANTAMARIA, agricultural engineer / MIGUEL DEL REY, architect / ANTONIO GALLUD, architect / CARLOS CAMPOS, architect
Location: Valencia, Spain
Budget: 567.400 €
Area: 4.762 m2
Technical architect: RAFAEL PASTOR.
Builder: VIAS Y CONSTRUCCIONES + DALMAU.
Developer: VALENCIA COUNCIL
Sculptor: MIKLOS PALFY
Photos & text: VAM10