The concept of the park is based on the existing and traditional terraces of Cyprus and, more specifically, Latsia.
These terraces not only allow for the management of the slope and water but link the project’s programme, as an environmental centre, to its spatial design. By consolidating the existing terraces, which define the park’s configuration, the terraces generate an intrinsic spatial relation between the park activities, the landscape and the views. Moreover, the terraces have been designed so a minimum amount of earth will be moved and so people with reduced mobility will have easy accessibility.
The terraces are also the foundations for a sustainable water management system, essential for the maintenance of a park in a Mediterranean climate, that collects rainwater from the roofs; in the winter, it treats the water that is used in the buildings through a natural wetlands system and distributes it through the drainage patterns, creating an enjoyable and natural cooling water landscape for the Latsian people. This makes it not only sustainable but also ecologically attractive for the BIRDS whose migration routes pass every year over Cyprus and the neighbouring National Park of Athalassa.
In this way, the aforementioned terraces become viewpoints and balconies for people to watch the birds and the city landscape. Thus, the intimate relation between the terraces, wetlands, birds and people is: infrastructural (managing water and slope), sustainable (aiding the park’s maintenance), environmental/ecological(creating a ‘nest’ for the migrating birds), cultural (preserving local materials, planting and terracing techniques), and social (creating open spaces for people to gather around the bird watching activities).
From the Architects’ brief: The park has been designed so it can evolve and consolidate over time to comply with the budget restrictions set on the brief. The first stage is dedicated to create the framework for it through basic and necessary earth works, such as paths configuration, consolidation of terraces, excavation works and the buildings footprint. This area represents 1/3 of the park since 2/3 will be kept in their existing condition. Τηε 1/3will set the basic layout for the park evolution and can be used from day one. The second stage will consist of the buildings together with the water management and will consolidate the existing vegetation and trees, delegating new planting to the management of the restaurant and to educational programmes. In this way the project provides for a basic framework that has the capacity to grow and include the community and the management of the park in its design to reduce the cost for its implementation.
The buildings’ programmes act as an extension of the park in a two-fold manner. On the one hand, spatially, they function as the continuation of the terraces and routes with accessible roofs to contemplate the landscape and on the other hand, in terms of their performance, they act as a mechanism that collects rain water in the roofs. After being used, water goes through a cleansing system in three phases: a primary treatment plant inside the buildings, using the wastage to generate energy as biofuel and then this treatment is continued in the park through primary and secondary wetlands to be used for irrigation. Thus, the landscape becomes a reciprocal extension of the sustainable water manage system that departs from the buildings and ends in the irrigation of the plants.
The main building serves as an entrance that connects various access points of the site with the park in two different levels. The environmental centre’s (KPP) distribution as a sloped promenade –suitable for disable people- allows the visitor to access the open air terrace of the restaurant to enjoy the views and sit facing the entire park. From there, the spatial configuration of the section of the restaurant below brings the visitor to the upper roof of the environmental centre which is the highest point from where to overlook the park. The fact that the KKP volume is gradually lifted from the ground also generates a very fresh and shadowed space underneath, that serves as an open air bar and sitting area for the restaurant .The junction between the KPP rooms, the terrace and the entrance from the back arm of the building constitutes the exhibition space and the entrance hall where all the routes converge. In sum, the volumetric configuration of the KPP and the restaurant building generates connections and promenades from the park and to the Latsia streets as well as viewing terraces in the highest point of the park and shadowed areas underneath. Moreover, its relation with the open air cinema allows the creation of a stepped plaza as a continuation of the space underneath the cantilever and the use of the building façade as a projection device.
The lower volume of the restaurant dissolves into the landscape making the upper terraces a continuation of the park’s paths. The restaurant can be accessed from the back parking, from the environmental centre and from the park. It has a fourth access directly connected with the parking for service vehicles to load and unload directly to the storage room and independent from the public routes. The restaurant is directly linked to the adjacent programmes: open air cinema, the amphitheatre, the playground and the open air sitting areas. The rest of the buildings for the amphitheatre, toilets and the sport facilities follow the same principles in terms of materials and water management.
Passive sustainable devices and materials have been devised for the design of the buildings: Cross ventilation, in the direction of the prevailing winds. Louvers designed at an angle to allow the SUN go through in the winter and to block it in the summer. Local stone for thermal inertia and low carbon footprint.
The planting strategy of the park copes with three issues: educational, managerial and economic. In order to comply with the budget constraints, we are only planting one third of the proposed trees and the rest will be part of an educational programme of tree restoration. We are also proposing agricultural plots that will be managed by the restaurant and community gardens that will be cared by the Latsia neighbours. The vegetation in the park has been selected from native species to make it more sustainable, as well as preserving the majority of existing trees in Pallourakampos. The bush giving its name and character, olive and lemon trees, grapevines, agricultural species, eucalyptus, etc, play six crucial roles:
1) they define the pedestrian routes and guide people throughout the different programmes by creating character routes,
2) they provide shading as the vegetal canopies,
3) they act as fences in the vegetated structures and slopes surrounding the site,
4) they produce some of the vegetables and local aromatic herbs that will be consumed in the restaurant,
5) they serve as an educational device and
6) as mentioned before, the wetlands and reedbeds clean the water to be used for irrigation purposes.
The routes are defined thematically and connect the park to its surroundings. The park has been conceived as a very permeable public space that will act as a connector for the neighbouring areas of Latsia. There is one main route that connects all the programmes marked with olive trees: the terraced garden, the environmental centre/restaurant building, the open air cinema, the playground, the amphitheatre and the sports facilities. There is an upper route that overviews the landscape under the shadow of the grapevine canopy. Another one runs through the terraced landscape marked with olive trees and pallourakampos bushes?. The eucalyptus route provides shadow in the sports facilities. And finally, Cyprus trees are used to mark and define punctual spaces in the park.
Our proposal for urban furniture is integrated as part of the terracing system. The edges of the slope become benches that appear as seat-walls in the landscape and can gradually transform into the amphitheatre, the open air cinema or the seating areas to watch sports. The lighting strategy is integrated in the urban furniture as part of the handrails, seat-walls and along the paths’ edges which serves as a guiding light and defines the edges to create a terraced night-landscape.
Architects: Groundlab + Clara Oloriz
Location: Latsia, Nicosia, Cyprus
Architectural and Landscape Design Team: Alfredo Ramirez, Clara Oloriz, Daniel Portilla, Hana Huang, Leila Meroue, Christina Nearchou, Eva Tsouni
Status: 3rd prize in the International Architectural Design Competition for the Urban Park of Palouriotissa