Itatiaia National Park

Rio de Janeiro

Structuring the oldest park in Brazil

The first national park in Brazil, the Parque Nacional do Itatiaia preserves an environmental and historical relevance that surprises all its visitors. Divided into three sectors, its diverse territory shelters from waterfalls for a river bath on hot days, to one of the highest (and coldest) peaks in the country – the Agulhas Negras peak.

The work aimed to formulate and encourage the application of partnership models aimed at the sustainable use of the park’s economic potential, with a view to creating technical conditions for its implementation to strengthen its management and biodiversity conservation.

A plan aimed at the public use of the park was developed, identifying and strengthening the existing attractions through the proposition of improvements, new interventions and strategies, with the objective of implementing quality and sustainable services, with minimal impact to the park; promotion of the park as an ecotourism destination; develop awareness and environmental education activities; increase the visitor’s time in the park and surroundings; make the park a reference for public use and partnership models; among others.

Located in a strategic region, between the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and close to São Paulo, the Conservation Unit (UC) receives thousands of visitors per year, being among the ten most visited parks in Brazil.

Four general guidelines were developed to guide the development of the project: the construction of strategies to increase the visibility of the park, attracting new visitors and partners (1); provide connections between the three sectors of the park (2); diversify activities and make the visitor circulate through the different sectors (3); create a project integrated with the environment, prioritizing sustainable practices and techniques that dialogue with a proposal for environmental awareness and education.

An extensive diagnosis was carried out to analyze the park’s territory and the existing infrastructures, seeking to identify the peculiarities and different characteristics of each sector: Low Part, High Part and Visconde de Mauá.

The Lower Part is an area with moist, dense, and fertile mountain forest vegetation, with beautiful natural pools and waterfalls. It is the sector of the park most sought after for visitation. The project for the region seeks to increase the offer of attractions, both natural and built, and to qualify those that already exist.

The Upper Part is characterized by the cold, massive and rocky fields and the suspended valleys where several rivers in the region are born. Its main tourist potential is the practice of extreme sports, mountaineering and ecotourism. The project aimed to enhance and order visitation at the site, increasing the offerings of attractions in the sector and implementing improvements in the existing ones.

The Visconde de Mauá Sector is located close to the tourist center of the city of the same name. At the time of the project, it was not consolidated in terms of visitation, but it was identified as having high tourist potential – it houses the main waterfalls and natural pools in the park. The project foresees the structuring of public use in the region based on the consolidation of two centers.

Proposed activities

In all, structures for accommodation, food, ticket sales, transportation, parking, commerce, environmental education and adventure and contemplation activities were designed, such as suspended trails, viewpoints, zip lines and deck, among others. The proposed activities were grouped into different lots to attract partners from different segments and from the surroundings.

More than 45 projects were developed, establishing the construction guidelines for the implementation of activities in the park. In the case of a Conservation Unit (UC), one of the main guidelines was the prioritization of construction techniques and systems that minimize the impacts of construction and the landscape. The conceptual design tools were related to the particularities of each sector, to create functional structures that meet an identity creation proposal, always relating the place to the technique.