Fire and 300 trees

Atelier Altern: For the 4th International Garden Festival of Ponte de Lima, Sylvain Morin and Aurélien Zoia, from Atelier Altern landscape architects, had decided to design a garden about forest fire, corresponding with the theme of the competition. Every year, thousands of hectares of forest are burned in Portugal. With global warming, increasingly visible, the frequency and the extent of these fires tends to progressively increase. Man and fire have long been competitors, since forests also grow and die because of man’s actions. The energy of the fire is often seen as a devastating power. However, it should also be considered a form of revival – through fire, trees char, mineralise, and are then reborn. This was the inspiration for the designers of this garden. The triangular shape of the plot is a reminder of the symbol of fire. Visitors enter a thicket where a fire has passed. Though destroyed, nature is slowly and timidly returning.

Standing, burned trees delimit a winding pathway covered by a net, creating a half-shaded wooded area invaded by plants that grow in the gaps. A succession of red and orange flowers complement each other and light up the space – on each side, the colours and shapes of these flowers draw plant patterns and remind visitors of flames. At the end of this shady path, another part of the garden is revealed: a chaotic area that has been exposed to fire. Burned trees are exhibited in a clear and purified space; no living shape, no plant remains – just heavy, thick smoke that appears now and then, like the memory of an ever-present fire that we cannot and should not forget.

Landscape architecture: Atelier Altern, Sylvain Morin & Aurélien Zoia
Client: City Council of Ponte de Lima, Competition of International Garden Festival
Location: Ponte de Lima, Portugal
Competition: 2nd Audience Award
Design: 2007-2008
Construction: 2008
Area: 200 m2
Budget: 10 000 euros HT
Photos & text: Atelier Altern

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