Natural environment of the garden
Serralves Park uniqueness results from the combination different landscape units rendering in a highly diverse space, particularly important considering the urban matrix where the Park is inserted. The presence of so many different habitats joined with thoughtful management turns Serralves Park in a keystone structure for the urban biodiversity of Porto. The diversity of its arboreal and shrub heritage includes more than 8000 specimens of woody plants, representing approximately 230 native and exotic (non-native) species and varieties.
Some rare species, such as the yew (Taxus baccata, a species at risk of extinction in Portugal), and other representative examples of Portuguese flora, such as Stone pine (Pinus pinea), Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), Chestnut (Castanea sativa), cork oak (Quercus suber), oak tree (Quercus robur), holly (Ilex aquifolium, protected by law), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) and hazelnut (Corylus avellana).
The diversity of species and origins of exotic (non-native) flora in the Park is vast, including: liquidambars (Liquidambar styraciflua), Virginia tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) and giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) from the USA; Atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica), Lebanon cedars (Cedrus libani) and Himalayan cedars (Cedrus deodara); the Indian chestnut tree or horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), arboreal rhododendrons and numerous varieties of camellias (Camellia japonica), of Asian origin, among many others. This valuable heritage has been subjected to an exhaustive study, with the collaboration of the University of Aveiro and CIBIO-InBIO – University of Porto, including identification of the species, geo-referencing of the specimens and development of a plataform that centralises this information. In this manner, the public can have access to the survey and also use its content for scientific and educational purposes.
From the fauna point of view, the Park is also pivotal for the biodiversity present in the city. The Park hosts all groups of terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) and a myriad of invertebrate groups. Of particular notice is the presence of several species endemic of the Iberian Peninsula such as the Iberian-newt (Lissotriton boscai) and the Bocage’s wall lizard (Podarcis bocagei). For the Park’s fauna, a digital plataform was also developed in collaboration with CIBIO-InBIO – University of Porto with information for every species present and a citizen science component where the visitor is invited to include registers of species seen.
All the natural values present combined with a very active educational service makes the park a privileged place for environmental education and raising awareness toward biodiversity.
Historical background of the garden
The origin of Serralves Park dates back to 1923 when Carlos Alberto Cabral, the 2nd Count of Vizela, inherited the Quinta do Lordelo estate, the family’s summer residence in the Rua de Serralves (which was then on the outskirts of Oporto). The estate’s history can be divided into three key periods: the contours of the garden at the end of the 19th century when it formed part of the Quinta do Lordelo and Quinta do Mata-Sete estates, the garden designed by Jacques Gréber for Serralves Villa, and the landscaping of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Quinta do Mata-Sete estate, also owned by the family and inherited by the Count of Vizela’s brother, was included within this enlargement process by swapping urban properties for land, in order to extend the state. When the estate was included within the property, it already featured several buildings – a hunting pavilion, a barn, olive press and farm manager’s house.
After visiting the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, Carlos Alberto Cabral decided to carry out an intervention in the estate. He invited the architect, Jacques Gréber to design the new garden. The project, whose designs date from 1932, is characterised by a mildly Art Deco, modernised classicism, influenced by French gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries, integrating several elements of the original garden, in particular the lake, together with the farming and irrigation structures of the properties acquired in the interim period.
The Serralves Garden, as designed by Jacques Gréber, was considered to be one of the first examples of gardening art in Portugal of the first half of the twentieth century, and was the only garden built during this period by a private individual in Portugal, on the basis of a landscape architecture project.
After the property was sold, in the early 1950s, to Delfim Ferreira, Count of Riba d’Ave, the Park remained its overall structure to the present day. After the Portuguese State acquired the property in 1986, several interventions were made in order to resolve the most urgent situations and enabled the park to be opened to the public in a staggered fashion, under the supervision of the landscape architect, Teresa Andresen a member of the Installation Committee who then assumed the position of Park Director after the Foundation was set up.
The birth of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, in 1999 represented another key moment in the history of the Park, via a new intervention in the landscape. The museum was installed in a lateral portion of land, formely occupied by a vegetable garden and orange grove and was overseen by the landscape artist, João Gomes da Silva (with the collaboration of Erika Skabar), who was invited by Álvaro Siza Vieira. The history of the place, its sustainability and topography were structural elements in the project that took into account the presence of the new building and its programme and uses.
Description of the Garden
The Serralves Park is a unique example of landscape architecture in Portugal. Its mission is to deepen and spread knowledge about gardening art, landscape, the environment and biodiversity through the enjoyment of a unique place and offering a rich and dynamic cultural, educational and sensorial experience. Its mission is based on the safeguarding and enhancement of the Park’s natural and built heritage, in accordance with best management practices for historic gardens.
Serralves Park occupies an area of 18 hectares and now constitutes a fundamental part of the ecological structure of the city of Porto. Composed of a multiplicity of spaces with different characteristics, the Park results from a landscaping project, whose genesis dates back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, between urban and rural, occupying a privileged position in the city, in close proximity to the Douro river – the last surviving example of a Recreational Estate in the city of Porto. Forming a bridge between neo-classicism and modernity, the gardens designed by Jacques Gréber in July 1932, stand out due to the subtlety of their details and the suitable choice of different scales, benefiting from the local topographic and climatic conditions that foster the diversity of spaces and habitats found here.
Offering a monumental style defined by the intercontinental practice of the Beaux-Arts style, the Park adopted and reinterpreted the same model, ranging between the urban and rural, originally on the outskirts of a still expanding city, thus enabling an imaginative universe to be created that was becoming impossible in other urban centres, due to the lack of space.
The entire park exhibits a major degree of monumentality, as exemplified by the Alameda dos Liquidâmbares which links the Avenida do Marechal Gomes Costa to the large terrace overlooking the Central Parterre. This is the starting point of the grand axis that extends for about 500 meters until virtually the southern end of the property, linking the leisure zone with the Serralves farm, in a unit of great scenic wealth, made of interlocking geometric and organic spaces, including a significant contribution from the association of native and exotic species, in amazing displays.
Its heritage value was officially recognised in 2012, when the Park was listed as a “National Monument”. In addition to this ranking, it is also among the 250 most outstanding gardens in the world, integrating the list of gardens published in the book ‘The Gardener’s Garden’, by the Phaidon publishing house.
19th century – Quinta do Lordelo
1923 – Carlos Alberto Cabral, the 2nd Count of Vizela, inherited the Quinta do Lordelo estate
1932 – gardens designed by Jacques Gréber
1986 – Portuguese State acquired the property
1999 – construction of Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in the Serralves Park, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Álvaro Siza
Brief description of the Interpretation Centre/Museum
The Serralves Museum is the foremost museum for contemporary art in Portugal, uniquely sited in the grounds of the Serralves Estate, which also comprises a Park and a Villa. Through its collection, temporary exhibitions, performance, education and public programmes, publishing initiatives, and national and international collaborations, the Museum fosters the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture. Introducing the work of the most important artists working today to diverse publics, strengthening ties with the local community, and encouraging reflection on the relationship between art and the environment that is intrinsic to the context of Serralves, are central to the Museum´s mission.
Monographic and thematic exhibitions of established and emerging artists and the Serralves Collection are featured as part of a changing programme in the Museum galleries. The Serralves Villa and Park are also privileged sites for the presentation of special exhibitions, commissions and Collection displays, together with travelling exhibitions organized in collaboration with cultural partners in Portugal and abroad. A dynamic programme of cinema, contemporary dance, music and performance is presented in the Auditorium and other spaces of the Museum. The Auditorium and the Museum Library are also host to conversations, lectures, symposia in which the public can participate in discussions and debates on artistic and cultural issues of our time.