Name of project: Lagunas San Nicolás Park
Garden surface: 30 ha
Construction year: 2004
Location: Montevideo, Uruguay
This project began to take shape in 1996. It consisted of a tract of wasteland on the city periphery. The place was being used as a dump for builder’s rubble and included a small muddy patch. On the ground, which was extremely flat, there was a group of eucalyptus and some clumps of willows. The climate is rainy and is marked by the coastal influence of the Río de la Plata.
The partners who owned the site decided to upgrade it with the idea of building their own homes there. This has not yet happened and the place remains a protected refuge.
Under the direction of the agronomist Nicolás Delfond, a lagoon was built and many willows, bald cypresses and some oaks were planted, elements that existed there when I received the commission.
I started the design considering the already-existing elements. I used the eucalyptus group as a backdrop, redesigned the first lagoon to give it different distributions of light and shadow, different views and more mystery, and I relocated many of the bald cypresses that had been planted in a line alongside the lagoon’s edge. With this change, I increased and reinforced the same species arranged in groups, so that in mass they acquired proportions suited to the scale of the place, and to obtain unity in the large-dimensioned project.
In order to give the place its own character, I introduced two species of native palms: pindó and butia. I also obtained large stones from a nearby quarry, large enough to match the scale of the landscape. Later, they were installed to create new border spaces with grasses and aquatic reeds.
I planned the second lagoon by separating it from the first with a stretch of land that acts like a bridge. There, the pindó palms predominate, together with camphor laurels and Japanese pittosporum. On the bank I alternated rocks and grasses, transitioning between land and water and thus creating the impression of a natural environment.
Thus a new landscape came into being, in which the rusty reds of the bald cypresses in autumn and the typical elements of the Uruguayan natural landscape stand out: willows, palms, rushes, grasses and rocks, which give the place character and unity.
The third lagoon was opened by reinforcing an existing group of ancient willows, at whose feet I incorporated an undergrowth of grasses that spring up spontaneously and convey the idea of a Green and very intimate wetland. The space was also enhanced with the incorporation of the dramatic reds and autumn shades of staghorn sumac and silver maple.
Walking through the park, one passes along the lagoons, in between the tres and under the Green and luminous vaults of the willows and the enormous pacara earpod tree. In some sections there is no pathway, but the walk continues on over the cut wild grasses. A walked can gaze through the views towards the lagoons and watch the sky’s luminous hues reflecting in its dark waters; can touch in passing the light and subtle foliage of the bald cypresses, whose low branches rest arched upon the ground; or be enveloped in the sweet scent of Japanese pittosporum during the spring. One can also feel the light breeze and the humidity, and notice the proximity of the birds, both those that remain in the trees as well as their aquatic cousins crossing the lagoons or resting in groups on their shores. All this is conducive to contemplation and connection with an extended world.
Here, a place was built in which nature expresses itself freely, in a woodland way; a place where the fauna came on its own. Gradually, the different voices of the birds came to inhabit this great oasis located in the pampas of Montevideo.