American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Professional Awards
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The project design basis is founded on the principles of Ecotourism, Sustainability, Conservation and Education rooted in the notion of creating global awareness of rainforest issues. (Photo by Morris Architects)

The project site comprises roughly 19,000 acres. Of that, 13,000 acres (68%) are existing primary and secondary Rainforest which the masterplan preserves in State controlled conservation and preservation areas; and the remaining 6,000 acres (32%) are open land to be used for ecologically sensitive proposed improvements, open space and reforestation. Development will occur without any clear-cutting of Rainforest. (Photo by Morris Architects)

The team analyzed data that included studies of existing vegetation and forest canopy, with new coordinate location of specific specimen trees; hydrology studies of the extensive rivers and streams network, geomorphology, and the significant topography, as well as extensive surveys of the site's threatened and endangered animal and plant species conducted on behalf of the project by the State of Pará. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Four separate one-week long trips to the site and numerous shirtsleeve, working sessions with the clients and their many local experts contributed greatly to the team's understanding of this expansive and complex site. However, so much was learned by just walking the land and communing with the spirit of the place. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Forest relationship diagram illustrates the relationship of development to the forest and other critical natural areas. Access Concept Diagram illustrates three methods of arriving on site and how, from there, guests move to other venues. (Photo by Morris Architects)

An Eco-Zoning study of the project site was developed where each proposed program element was assigned an intensity value and located on the site to minimize impact to the forest. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Site Related functional diagram showing numbered program elements and land uses by color. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Summary of Program Elements lists the diverse opportunities available in the masterplan. (Photo by Morris Architects)

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Parque Amazônia, Belém, Pará, Amazônia, Brazil
Morris Architects, Orlando, FL

"Very progressive, thorough, and sequential. Well documented and acknowledges its audience. It touches all bases."

— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Narrative Summary:
Amazônia, the massive Amazon Rainforest region of South America, is one of the most environmentally significant regions in the world, and its degradation is an ongoing global concern. Our project, Parque Amazônia has been conceived to create educational and research opportunities to make a positive impact environmentally and financially on the region. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) maintains that the essential component in Ecotourism is the "inherent quality and authenticity of the landscape, wildlife, and the cultural experience." This description follows exactly the design intent of this project, placing emphasis on the landscape first, and ensuring that the total experience is not degraded, but enhanced by the manmade additions. We based Parque Amazônia, on four founding principles of Education, Ecotourism, Sustainability, and Conservation with the ultimate goal of using those principles to heighten global awareness of rainforest issues within the constructs of an ecologically sound, and financially viable ecotourism experience for the Government of the State of Pará.

The Parque Amazônia site is just 20 km east of downtown Belém, Brazil--a city of over a million people, and historically known as the birthplace of Amazônian culture. Parque Amazônia offers its guests an opportunity to explore the wonders and beauty of the rainforest, while learning about its global importance. The site's location adjacent to a major metropolitan area benefits from its proximity to an international airport and support services, while serving as a buffer and a means for protecting the periphery of the rainforest ecosystem from encroaching urban sprawl while providing opportunities for nature and culture based tourism benefiting the local populace.

The site for Parque Amazônia comprises roughly nineteen-thousand acres along the banks of the Guamá River, part of the Amazon River Estuary. Of that, thirteen-thousand acres (68%) of the site are existing primary and secondary Rainforest which our masterplan preserves in State controlled Conservation areas. All proposed improvements are limited to 1,900 acres (only 10% of the site) on primarily open, rolling land which had been deforested in the 1800's when it was occupied by the Pirelli rubber plantation. The remaining four-thousand plus acres (22%) of open land will be used as a combination of open space and reforestation areas to further buffer the existing forest and varzéa (flooded forest) systems. Development will occur without any clearcutting of Rainforest - maintaining the forest intact as the project's focal point and main attraction.

Project Goals and Objectives:

  • Create project opportunities that enable the client (State of Pará) to generate sustainable revenue, while protecting the State's important resources.
  • Create opportunities for education and research to increase awareness locally and globally of rainforest issues.
  • Create a design that follows principles of sustainability and environmental responsibility.
  • Revive Belém's title as the "Gateway to the Amazon" by creating a destination that attracts eco-tourists globally.
  • Maintain and expand upon the image of the State government of Pará as being known for building quality projects.

The Data Collection and Analysis Process:
For the site analysis, the team analyzed data that included studies of existing vegetation and forest canopy, with new coordinate location of specific specimen trees; hydrology studies of the extensive rivers and streams network, geomorphology, and the significant topography; as well as extensive surveys of the site's threatened and endangered animal and plant species conducted on behalf of the project by the State of Pará. We learned the most, however, by being on the site. Four separate one-week long trips to the site and numerous shirtsleeve, working sessions with the clients and their many local experts (biologists, historians, animal experts, an archaeologist, and various researchers) contributed greatly to the team's understanding of this expansive and complex site. During all site analysis trips, the clients provided local guides from the Policia Ambiental Militar whose job it is to protect the forest, to impart some of their knowledge of the site gained over many years of being on it daily. Many times we would stop along the way for one of the guides to cut a flower, fruit, or seed from a plant to show us the traditional native's use for it as food, drink, or even body paint. The earliest trips to the site were more often vehicle-based--in pickup trucks, boats, and helicopters--in an effort to gain a better general understanding of the overall site and the region. Hot, bumpy rides on dirt roads in the back of a pickup and an unforgettable boat trip under the jungle canopy on the Taiassui on an incoming tide all added to the team's appreciation and reverence for the site. Later expeditions were primarily on foot armed with cameras, sketchbooks, site maps and GPS (Global Positioning System) equipment (and of course, DEET) to gather information about the landform, network of igarapés (streams), and natural view corridors. So much was learned by just walking the land and communing with the spirit of the place. Many of the excursions paused at the residences of indigenous families who provided the team with additional insight about living on and adjacent to the site, the region, and life in the Amazon.

This collection of studies, reports, and firsthand site experience formed the basis of an Eco-Zoning study of the project site, where we assigned an intensity value to each proposed program element and located each on the site to minimize impact to the forest. The study assisted in determining the propriety of proposed uses and facilitated informed decision-making about the final design. In conjunction with the masterplans, a 200+ page 11x17 book was produced in English and Portuguese that included an Economic Feasibility Study and Financial Analysis Pro Forma. These reports, along with a background research summary of current industry trends in Ecotourism were presented to the clients as evidence that Parque Amazônia could fulfill their goals and the project's goals of Sustainability and financial responsibility.

Consideration of Options:
Prior to our being hired to produce a new Project Concept direction and Masterplan, the client had been dealing with developers who were interested in building a theme park, time-share condos and a golf course on the site. In our time in Brazil, we met with local people and numerous high-ranking government officials as well as two successive governors. And the more time we spent with them, the more it became clear that in their hearts they felt uncomfortable with a typical development, but didn't know they had other options. What they really wanted was something where the forest was protected and given the reverence with which they held it in their own hearts. Our concept of an ecotourism/education and research destination was a direct outgrowth of the conversations we had. It is our belief that Parque Amazônia will become a local public treasure that fosters a renewed stewardship of the land.

The Masterplan for Parque Amazônia provides opportunities for manmade additions to be artfully tucked into the landscape, carefully taking full advantage of the rolling topography, views, and vistas, and relationships to forest edges. The experience of traversing the site from one project element to the next is an integral part of the designed experience. The most developable area is effectively divided by a wetland forest surrounding the Igarapé Apará. On the south side of that forest is the heart of Parque Amazônia, containing the majority of the program elements such as the Cultural Entertainment Park, the Zoological Park and Aquarium, and Bromeliad Gardens, as well as the main Lodge and Anatuba Village. Anatuba Village functions as the main arrival collection point and main gathering point for the whole project; it provides shopping, dining, and cultural entertainment opportunities to guests as they move to their final destinations on site. On the north side of Igarapé Apará is the Resort Village, the area that is home to a limited number of eco-hotels, fazendas, and posadas. These elements are sited on the north side of the Igarapé to minimize any impact they might have on the forest at night, and to combine services to minimize infrastructure impacts. Ecolodges are sited away from the middle of Parque Amazônia based on a balance of accessibility, site character, sustainability, minimal forest impact and guest experience. Other parts of the development are typically at the edge of the water for reasons of connectivity, access, and recreation, such as the Guamá docks and the Uriboca Cultural Center, and even then, related to previously degraded land.

Involvement of Interested Parties:
The government of the State of Pará is the client/owner and is responsible for providing initial funding, perpetual protection and maintaining ongoing operation. We have met with representatives from the Emelio Goeldi Museum about opportunities to integrate their cultural, animal and botanical programs into the project. Facilities for a university-based research foundation will be integrated into the project and we are assessing University partner opportunities as well as appropriate environmental groups. The Landscape Architect will continue to collaborate with the Government of Pará and local experts to provide an increasingly detailed responsible masterplan and program that is sensitive to the Amazônian environment and culture, adheres to our directed architectural character, and minimizes impact on the ecosystem.

Design Process:
The river, the rain, and the forest have shaped this region and its culture. The intent of this project is to create a place where nature and culture permeate everything and capture the spirit of the Amazon in all its elements. From programming appropriate cultural and natural attractions, and sensitive site selection for all program elements, to the selection of sustainable indigenous materials and appropriate architectural character, Parque Amazônia has been designed to provide guests with true Amazônian experiences--not an imitation version. The site design seeks to create opportunities where the manmade can coexist with the natural, each having gained from its relationship with the other.

The Four founding principals of this Nature and Culture tourism project are:
Ecotourism, Sustainability, Conservation, and Education.

  • Ecotourism is often defined as "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people." The design intent of Parque Amazônia reflects this description, placing emphasis on the landscape first, and ensuring that the total experience is not degraded, but enhanced by the development. Ecotourism will provide a revenue source for the local culture and again place Belém as the hub of Amazon travel.
  • The goal of Sustainability is to create a responsibly designed project that is capable of self-sustaining both the existing natural biodiversity, and the financial sustainability of the man-made elements now and in the future. Our project incorporates the use of alternative energy sources and "Green Architecture" as design methods to minimize environmental impacts. An Economic Feasibility study was completed as part of our process to ensure financial sustainability.
  • Conservation refers to the protection and management of critical forest biodiversity, as well as conservation of the culture of the region. At project completion, roughly sixteen-thousand acres of rainforest area will be protected. The clients and designers understand the importance of protecting this rapidly depleting resource and strive to preserve the remaining Rainforest intact from future development and potential loss.
  • Education encompasses Rainforest Research and Entertainment/Education. Facilities have been created to allow guests to interact with researchers on a controlled basis, in the form of interpretive experiences and entertaining educational opportunities. These experiences will expand global understanding of the sensitive Rainforest ecosystem and its associated Amazônian culture. Parque Amazônia will also illustrate the financial benefits of ecotourism and Rainforest preservation, as an alternative to deforestation, to the local people of Belém and the State of Pará.

Project Implementation:
Projected implementation will occur in four construction phases over a twenty year period. This phasing strategy corresponds closely to the Market Feasibility Study conducted by our team to ensure economic sustainability of the project. The State of Pará will finance the construction of Parque Amazônia and will seek environmental organization assistance, and appropriate corporate sponsorships and investors to defray startup costs. To minimize impact to the site, the design eschews the traditional broad boulevard for modified existing plantation roadways where they are deemed to provide the appropriate guest experience, and create less site impact. The next phase of design work will commence in the summer of 2006. We are continuing our close collaboration with the State of Pará to identify boundaries for specific program elements, identify individual use densities, and further determine the scope of individual program elements.

Project Administration / Monitoring:
We are fortunate that Parque Amazônia will enjoy perpetual protection as the State of Pará government will retain ownership and ultimate control of all aspects within its boundaries. The next step will be to seek support and endorsement of global environmental and ecotourism organizations. It is anticipated that these organizations will enhance the credibility of Parque Amazônia while expanding its international awareness. The creation of local jobs, the generation of revenue, and the protection of a public amenity and culture will foster local stewardship.

Relevance to the Profession:
Amazônia, often dubbed "the lungs of the Earth," is perhaps the most precious ecosystem on the planet and arguably one of the most important and threatened regions in world ecology. With such a critical resource at stake, it is significant that landscape architects are guiding the process and balancing development and ecosystem preservation into an environmentally sensitive and sustainable masterplan. The sensitivity and responsible design principles followed for Parque Amazônia provide further example of how landscape architects act as "stewards of the land."

Despite growing international assistance for environmental projects, the quality of life for the people of the Amazon has continued to decline in conjunction with the rainforest's continued destruction. Projects like Parque Amazônia are important at this time to provide an opportunity to use tourism and education to create awareness and to promote alternative, non-destructive uses to conserve this irreplaceable global resource.


Land Use Masterplan - shows all 19,000 acres of the site, its relationship with the Guamá river, and adjacent community. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Circulation Concept Overlay - illustrates the use of multiple modes of transportation, from tiny, limited-use roads and canoes on the small rivers to mass transit and larger Amazon boats on the Guamá. Original drawing is at 1:10,000 scale. Typical roadway sections illustrate how impact to the forest will be minimized. (Photo by Morris Architects)

The contemporary/indigenous structures of Timborana Lodge are carefully tucked into the landscape and are constructed of renewable materials. The Timborana Lodge bungalow units are elevated above the ground to minimize impact on the site. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Activity Centers provide recreation and adventure opportunities such as canopy tours, horse trail rides, hot air balloon rides above the canopy as well as kayak and canoe rentals. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Phasing Concept - outlines the phasing development strategy of the masterplan over a twenty-year period. (Photo by Morris Architects)

An Economic Feasibility Study, Financial Analysis Pro Forma and background research summary of current industry trends in Ecotourism provide evidence that Parque Amazônia can fulfill the client's goals and the project's goals of sustainability and financial responsibility. (Photo by Morris Architects)

Regional context aerial shows the relationship of Downtown Belém, Airport and the project site. Parque Amazônia sits as a buffer to the Amazônian Rainforest that continues to the east and south of the site. Photo by Morris Architects)

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