Wetlands are key to the environmental recovery plan of Fortaleza, Brazil. The new Rachel de Queiroz park occupies one of the city’s flooded preservation areas by adopting the drainage system as a structural element. Green sports fields sit between walkways that interlace with lagoons and wetlands to create a system that improves the water quality of the Riacho Cachoeirinha.

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Aerial view of the park

The park was built after hydrological studies indicated the best water filtering process could be constructed with nine interconnected ponds and lagoons. The ponds would use decanting and phytoremediation, a process in which microorganisms on the surface of the soil and on the roots of aquatic plants help to clean the water.

Related: Service center in national park honors history of the area

Another aerial view of the park showing the dog park

Parque Rachel de Queiroz is enormous, especially considering the dense urban space around it. It will be over six miles in length and about 500 acres total when completed. The park will be the second largest in Fortaleza. Six sections have been built so far, out of a total of 19. This area west of the city uses a linear layout to cut through residential areas by connecting with road systems on either side.

Locals enjoying the lagoon park

Walking, running, outdoor gym, biking, soccer and volleyball are just some of the sports played here. Parque Rachel de Queiroz is in its first stage. The recently opened sixth section of the park was recovered from a degraded area that concerned local residents. It had been a vacant lot used for garbage dumping and sewage, which polluted the Riacho Cachoeirinha, a water source that is used locally. The river flooded due to overloaded rainwater drainage systems caused by the region’s densification. The result was rainwater runoff building up on the polluted site and contaminating drinking water.

A bridge between two lagoons

The new park is a vast improvement for the environment as well as the local residents’ enjoyment. Paths between the ponds in the park lead visitors to areas such as an amphitheater, a dog park, sports courts and playgrounds. There is a reading space, an outdoor gym, and a track that surrounds the park and creates a safe space for jogging and walking.

Parque Rachel de Queiroz by Architectus S/S

Two metal bridges crossing the waterways were proposed so the creek wouldn’t become a physical barrier to using the park. The bridges are made of steel and concrete and make the park more accessible from all sides.

Stone sitting area wrapping around a center slab

Special emphasis was placed on making the park a nice area for public use so that it would not revert to being used for garbage dumping. A project to furnish the park sustainably found ways to create durable and sustainable playground toys, arbors of eucalyptus wood and biosynthetic benches on concrete bases for seating.

A jogger running past a sign of the park

Architectus S/S helped recreate the visual identity of the park with the logo highlighting the wetlands as the main element. The signs placed throughout the space help to guide as well as educate park users about the project.

The neighborhoods in west Fortaleza have experienced high population growth in recent years. The housing was becoming denser, but public spaces had not caught up to serve the populace. Parque Rachel de Queiroz has rapidly been adopted for use by the surrounding community because of its high quality as a public space in its improved state. The park serves as a reminder of the power of communities to reclaim their space and create sustainable, enjoyable spaces enjoyed by everyone for a greener urban future.

+ Architectus S/S

Images via Joana França