25 years of Salvation and Restoration of Biodiversity in the Canary Islands

This leafy park in the Canary Islands is the result of more than two decades of ecological restoration of the last thousand-year-old dragon tree of the archipelago and its habitat. An international design competition won in 1984 by the architects Fernando Menis, Felipe Artengo and Jose María Rodríguez Pastrana, saved the mythical tree of the Canary Islands and enabled visiting it again. Their design was based on removing a road whose vibrations and smoke affected the tree besides recovering the biodiversity around the unique specimen. An exhibition open through the 28th of April, at El Laboratorio de Tenerife, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Parque del Drago.


El Parque de Drago, Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Photo: Hisao Suzuki

How the Project Started

The popular Parque del Drago de Icod de los Vinos (The Dragon Tree Park) could be defined as a 40 years long process of ecological restoration of an ancient dragon tree's habitat, which has enabled visiting it again since 25 years already. The dragon tree of Icod de los Vinos, in Tenerife, is the oldest specimen of Dracaena Drago, preserved in the Atlantic archipelago, which nearly died in the 1980s. After detecting its poor health, the authorities called an international design competition for a future park to protect the tree. The jury selected the entry by three young architects - Fernando Menis, Felipe Artengo and José María Rguez. Pastrana - which was based on removing a road whose vibrations and smoke affected the tree, and on recovering the biodiversity that had accompanied the ancient tree before the anthropization of its setting. 


In 1984,  we won an international public design competition for the Dragon Tree Park to protect it from the hustle that had been progressively developed around this unique specimen. Although these 40 years have only been a moment for the millenary Dragon Tree, for us they have translated into an ongoing architecture and landscaping project that has accompanied us throughout our career until now. 

-Fernando Menis, Architect co-author of the project for the Dragon Tree Park


Perceived as Insane at the Time, Now Seems Full of Common Sense

The way in which ecological restoration was conceived at that time, connects and explains the Menis's project "Islas del mundo" ("Islands of the World") that condenses Fernando Menis's expertise in approaching architecture as part of the landscape. The Dragon Tree Park project put nature, a unique tree, at the center. Today this decision may seem the most logical, it may seem like a decision full of common sense, but in the `80s when tourism in the Canary Islands was booming, the project was perceived as impossible and insane, since it proposed the elimination of the road that passed nearby, an essential general route in the north of the island, very busy with locals and tourists.adf-web-magazine-fernando-menis-dragon-tree-park-project-22

The young team's redesign project removed the road to protect the Dragon Tree from all kinds of pollution and vibrations, away from the noise and smoke of the city to return it to its original habitat, as it was the way it had grown for centuries, protected by a wall that separated a farm from the town of Icod de los Vinos. This fence, which was no longer there, was recreated by raising a wall again, located in the same place, with the same height and made with the same material, that is, local basalt stone.


Image: Fernando Menis


Image: Fernando Menis

On the other hand, the perimeter of the old farm, the last one between the town and the ravine, was fenced off again as always to protect the tree that grew on the edge of the ravine, living for hundreds of years in the original environment, a natural paradise from which it was expelled, forcing its introduction into the urban center and on the island's tourist routes.


Photo: Hisao Suzuki

During the 25 years that have elapsed since the completion of the park, all the biodiversity of the ravine on the edge of which the tree sits has slowly been recovered thanks to a courageous compromise in which a public, open architecture contest that prioritized quality by design and architects worked closely with experts such as biologist and botanists.


Photo: Hisao Suzuki

 Work is currently underway to achieve the completion of the Visitor Center, a building designed by the same architects and the reason for a new legal controversy in 2023, the last of the many vicissitudes that The Dragon Tree Park has been enduring.


Photo: Hisao Suzuki


Photo: Hisao Suzuki

Exhibition at Santa Cruz de Tenerife Opens February 2023

El Laboratorio de Tnerife, a research space led by the architect Fernando Menis, celebrates the 25th anniversary since the reopening of the Dragon Tree Park in 2023, and the recovery of its biodiversity, with the exhibition "The Dragon Tree Park 1998-2023: 25 years embracing the mythical thousand-year-old Dragon Tree in Icod de los Vinos, on Tenerife island". The exhibition is organized within the 'Islands of The World' project (called in its previous 12 editions 'Islas del Futuro'), which aims to promote the biodiversity of the Canary Islands and put cultural and nature tourism back at the center.  Thus, culture, landscape, art and nature are the research lines on which a much broader and more transversal work is based.adf-web-magazine-fernando-menis-dragon-tree-park-project-1

The exhibition, consisting of images that explain the project and its evolution, can be visited between February 10 and April 28, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, c/ Gómez Landero, 19, Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The exhibition is scheduled to travel and be on display in Icod de los Vinos.

About Fernando Menis (1951, Tenerife)

With a professional career spanning more than 40 years, Menis's architectural production includes works of various scales and typologies, as well as long-term research projects. An expert in designing concert halls and auditoriums, he is internationally recognized and awarded for conceiving an innovative variable acoustics system for the CKK Jordanki Concert Hall (2015, Poland). Among the projects completed, alone and in co-authorship: the Church of the Holy Redeemer of Las Chumberas (2022), El Tanque Cultural Space Public Garden (2022), CKK "Jordanki" Concert and Conventions Hall, in Poland (2015) , Plaza Bürchen in Switzerland (2015), Insular Athletics Stadium (2007), Magma Arte & Congresos (2007), Floating pool in the Spree River of Berlin (2004) and the Presidency of the Canary Islands Government in Tenerife (2000). Menis has won multiple international prizes, and his works have been shown in museums from around the world. His project Iglesia del Santísimo Redentor is part of the permanent collection of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art in New York.