Roberto Burle Marx: Brazil’s Ultimate Landscape Architect

Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) painted Brazil from the heavens above. Given the power of a God, Marx took Brazil as his canvas and today its inhabitants live in his vision. The landscape architect designed over 2,000 parks and gardens, most of them in Rio. He is also responsible for the famous waving pavement designs of Copacabana beach promenade.

A Painter

At the age of 19 Marx moved to Berlin to study paintings and there found himself inspired by the city’s Botanical gardens. Back home he continued to consider himself a painter but began experimenting in horticulture with native plants. Treating landscapes as art he was spotted by the architect/ urban planner Lucio Costa, who commissioned him his first garden for the Schwartz House.

A Man of his Country

It may sound ridiculous, considering the incredible flora and fauna native to Brazil, but mid-century Brazilian gardeners thought it fashionable to copy European gardens. English roses were often imported along with other European species. Marx believed that instead Brazilian wildlife should be celebrated and began introducing native plants into his designs.

An Environmentalist

Marx was one of the first Brazilians to speak out against deforestation and wrote several essays on the matter whilst teaching landscape architecture at the University of Brazil.

A Man of the People

Marx preferred to work on public projects rather than private ones. His most notable projects include: Copacabana Beach promenade and Flamengo Park, Rio; Cascade Garden at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; and Parque del Este, Caracas, Venezuela. Collaborating on several occasions with ‘star-chitect’ Oscar Niemeyer, the team were driven to improve the lives of as many people as possible with their designs.

This lead to his incredible popularity and numerous awards including the landscape architecture prize from the Second International Exhibition of Architecture and the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects. Today Roberto Burle Marx is famous world wide, accredited with introducing modernist landscape architecture to Brazil.

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