Sitio Roberto Burle Marx
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Roberto Burle Marx
1949 – 1994
The discovery of the jungle
|In this area, Burle Marx experimented for decades with the idea of a modern tropical garden that is strongly connected to the landscape. (Image: Juliana Freitas)
|Behind the house is a green room - an area of transition to the garden - covered with a pergola with climbing plants. (Image: ttnotes.com)
|The colourful blocks of native plants and the cleverly positioned solitary plants show clearly that this is a designed space. (Image: imaginariodejaneiro.com)
|A rock wall is made up of recycled pieces of granite from demolished buildings in Rio. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The Brazilian rainforest is rich in all kinds of plants, flowers and trees that are found nowhere else. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Brazilian garden designers preferred imported species to these native species. The prevailing view was that the jungle did not fit into the ideal garden. Artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx was one of the first to see the value of the Brazilian landscape. During his art education in the then Weimar Republic, he learned to appreciate the planting of his country. In the collection of the Berlin botanical garden he found a multitude of extraordinary Brazilian plant species.
In the exuberant colors and special leaf shapes that his colleagues perceived as inappropriate, Burle Marx saw starting points for his designs. He would become known worldwide for the way in which he divided native plant species according to color and structure into tight or organic planting sections. His palette of colors and shapes fitted seamlessly with the ideas of the followers of the modern architectural movement, with which he frequently collaborated. In his designs, Burle Marx referred to national customs, materials and forms. The often large masses of tropical plants seem to blend seamlessly into the surrounding natural environment.
In 1949 Roberto Burle Marx and his brother bought an eighteenth-century farmhouse on the western edge of Rio de Janeiro. He would live there from 1973 until his death in 1994. ( i ) For decades, Burle Marx experimented with the idea of a modern tropical garden strongly connected to the landscape on the huge 365,000 square meter site. Burle Marx had an eye for the physical and social characteristics of the place. The small chapel, for example, was restored and local residents could celebrate their church services here. The rainforest was the starting point for the design of the garden. Behind the house is a green room - a transition area to the garden - covered with a pergola with climbing plants. A waterfall falls over the pergola into a pond. Climbing the rocky mountainside behind the house evokes the feeling of the jungle. At the same time, the colorful blocks of native plants and the cleverly positioned solitary plants make it clear that this is a designed space. An abstract rock face is made from recycled pieces of granite from demolished buildings in Rio. In this place design merges with ecology. Burle Marx collected more than 3500 plant species in his garden and some even bear his name.
Karen van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia wrote about the Brazilian designer: “Burle Marx was prescient in his reverence for plants and his stewardship of the whole nursery, for his ability to see the garden both as an aesthetic experiment and also as part of the ecology". ( ii )
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|Larry Rohter, ‘A New Look at the Multitalented Man Who Made Tropical Landscaping an Art’, in: The New York Times, January 20, 2009.