Learning with Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles on National Gardens Day

Students left their mark on the country, with the unprecedented creation of a national day on the initiative of young people from a school, but also in their city

Jardim Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, in Portimão, still under construction

Today, May 25th, National Gardens Day is celebrated. It is the second time that such an event has been celebrated, officially and throughout the country.

It is a tribute to one of the most notable Portuguese people of the last century, Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, who, in this way, is rightly honored on the date of his birth, on the initiative of young students from Porto, in a story with a happy ending that deserves it be remembered.

In fact, the creation of National Gardens Day on May 25th, the birth day of landscape architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, was the result of a petition made by me and my 10th grade students at Escola Secundária Manuel Teixeira Gomes, in the 2020-2021 academic year.

It was a dream that lived through several moments, in a process that went through the pandemic: creation of the online petition for the creation of National Gardens Day, obtaining the number of signatures necessary to be accepted in the Assembly of the Republic, hearing at the Environment and Energy Commission , unanimous approval in the plenary of the Assembly of the Republic on September 16, 2022 and, finally, publication in the Official Gazette on October 6, 2022.

The “vacancies” of the process could be described as follows: it started in the classroom, moved to the atrium (the school), jumped to the agora (the city) and “flowed” into the country. On this “trip”, the students were able to discover themselves as Students, People and Citizens, leaving their mark on the country.

They left their mark on the country, with the unprecedented creation of a national day on the initiative of young people from a school, but also in their city.

The Portimão City Council, as a sign of recognition for their exemplary and inspiring active citizenship initiative, granted them the possibility of “naming” the garden that was planned for the space adjacent to the Manuel Teixeira Gomes Secondary School. And that was how Jardim Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles was born, which will be opened in the coming months.

Na petition that was the origin of this epic story with a happy ending, there are some phrases that, like premonitory wishes, can point the way to what, desirably, this new and symbolic garden in the city could become.

Faced with the unavoidable question “and now, what do we want to do with this new garden?”, the petition from the young people of Teixeira Gomes could answer:

“We dream of a special day, when elderly people leave their homes and homes to sunbathe and talk to each other.
A special day, when younger children will spend the morning playing catch, riding on the swings or playing ball.
A special day, when classes are held outdoors, in school gardens and in the gardens and parks of towns and cities”. (1)


In this petition, which was recorded on video by students in the only work of landscape architecture by Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles that exists in the municipality of Portimão, the Piscina Atlântica da Prainha, we find the fundamental paradigm of an effective use of a public garden: empathetically involving communities in these spaces , so that they feel like they are theirs, from the perspective of a caregiver and not just a user.

At the ceremony in which the first stone of Jardim Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles was laid (on December 11th, City Day), the motto was set for this desirable environmental ethic centered on the user-caregiver, by allowing residents to take young trees to their homes to take care of them until the moment, fortunately soon, when they will be invited to return them to the garden, which will then become “their” garden, where they will certainly enjoy taking their children and grandchildren.

We believe that the right path is this: involving communities, including residents and nearby schools, in a dynamic of healthy “appropriation” that prevents, upstream, vandalism and the capture of these noble spaces of the city by those who, uprooted and living on the margins of society, they find fertile ground for an occupation far from desirable.

As Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles so well pointed out, “the way of being, in physical space and time, of a community results from the accumulated experience that has been translated into countless rules and customs that are an important part of what we call ' culture". (two)

Or, even, in defense of “creating an orderly and, therefore, beautiful landscape, where you can practice physical exercise, take a walk, breathe fresh air, live together and contemplate nature. In fact, the landscape is also a cultural and aesthetic value, regardless of the economy and environmental quality”. (3)

We must learn from best practices in this matter. Who doesn't remember the garden benches with plaques marking memories of courtships, the birth of children or grandchildren in the film? Notting Hill?

One last word for the animals. And why not put shelters for birds in the trees? Why not conceive public spaces as Friendly towards animals? The petition stated the following: “Gardens are the places in the city where animals feel at home and the places that many birds choose to make their home.”

Nature is our Motherhouse. Let's make our gardens our home too.

Long live National Gardens Day!


See photos of Jardim Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, in Portimão, still to be built:



Author Carlos Café is a teacher at Escola Secundária Manuel Teixeira Gomes and has a Master's degree in Philosophy of Nature and the Environment from the University of Lisbon


(1) Petition for the Creation of National Gardens Day (link: https://peticaopublica.com/pview.aspx?pi=DIA-NACIONAL-JARDINS)
(2) TELLES, Gonçalo Ribeiro, Beyond the Revolution, Lisbon, Edições Salamandra, 1985, pp. 56
(3) TELLES, Gonçalo Ribeiro, Textos Escoledos, Lisbon, Argumentum, pp. 33




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