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Garcia de Orta Gardens - Expo Lisbon 1998

Garcia de Orta Gardens at the Exhibition Expo Lisbon 1998
© Expo'98
Architect(s) : J Gomes da Silva, L Cheis, R Salema, I Norton, J Adriao

The Garcia de Orta Gardens form an extension of the Promenade along the Tagus River, leading to the restaurant area and the North International Space.

There are six successive gardens, each 25 metres wide. The plants chosen for these different gardens recreate the vegetal atmosphere of the various regions visited by the Portuguese on their voyages across the oceans: Macau, Goa, Timor, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde, Madeira, Brazil, and the Bay of Moçâmedes in Angola. In all, there are 400 different species offered by the regions and countries that have joined the project.

These gardens are, in short, an open-air pavilion and celebrate botanical exchange as part of a wider adventure, that of the Discoveries. They are symbolically associated with the name of the Portuguese physician and botanist Garcia de Orta (1501-1568), the author of Colôquios dos Simples e ùrogos e Cousos Medicinais da îndia, who lived in India for 30 years and compiled the first Western register of oriental plants.

The selection of the vegetation was a joint effort between the Higher Institute of Agronomy, the Institute of Scientific and Tropical Research and botanists from the regions and countries represented. The project was coordinated by the landscape architect Cristina Castel-Branco and the design of the lakes, pavements, walls and fountains is the responsibility of the architects Joao Gomes da Silva and Ines Norton de Matos.

The materials in each garden have been studied to suggest the regions and countries represented: wood in the "tea pavilion" in Coloane, red pumice and basalt from the volcanoes of the Azores or sand from the African deserts.

The Timor garden is the first, and as an entrance hall it is very simple:
It tells the story of the sandalwood that once covered the island of Timor and it also tells of the plants that have adapted so well to the Portuguese climate, such as the eucalyptus and casuarina.

The vegetation of Macau, of the temperate and warm forest, is dense, dominated by shrubs (Tetropox, Melastono,...), partially covered by trees (Gingko bilobo, Magnolia stellata, Bombax ceiba) and marked by clumps of bamboo. The path is made on wooden platforms, one of which forms a bridge that crosses the lake where rice has been sown.

The Goa garden has a marble basin in the centre, which receives water from a canal running through it. A wooden portico allows one to appreciate the garden as a whole, where one notices the orange trees brought from China by the Portuguese and acclimatised in Goa before their entry into Europe. A row of Caryotas urens (palm trees) gives it a tropical character.

The garden which contains the vegetation of Sao Tome (dense and humid forest) presents first the meliguette and is covered by a structure used to make shade; rows of banana trees and the Logenaria.

Between Sao Tome and Principe and Brazil, a waterfall with three vertical sides of water flows. Plants from Brazil have long since become part of Lisbon's ornamental vegetation, such as bougainvilleas, jacarandas, Chorizi and Tipuanas. There are also other plants that flower strongly and are humidified by fogging.

Macaronesian vegetation (Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde) is gathered in a single garden. In a first area representing the flora of the two Autonomous Regions (Azores and Madeira), the tea trees from the Gorreana plantation on the island of Sâo Miguel stand out. The southern entrance to the garden is marked by clumps of evergreen shrubs. The small basalt dividing walls are reminiscent of the archipelago landscape and house sugar cane, tobacco and hydrangeas. A moat, crossed by footbridges, marks the symbolic border with the vegetation of Cape Verde, where Phoenix atlantica, Indigo and Aloe vera stand out.

In the African garden, the vegetation of the light deciduous forest, typical of the eastern coast and originating from the island of Inhaca, and the steppe of the Moçâmedes deserts with grasses and cacti are represented. The roads are covered with sand up to the large desert slabs, joined by alternating layers of black and reddish stone.