Monday, January 17, 2011

The Master Gardner

Those of you who were expecting a post from me about the flooding and the landslides, will find one here:

After being exposed to all of the destruction and horror that plagued Brazil this week, I was moved to contemplate things of beauty.

Hence what follows. 

Brazil is blessed by more varieties of plants than any other country.
So is it any wonder that Brazil produced one of the world’s greatest landscape architects?
His name was Roberto Burle Marx.

He intended to become a painter, but his mother had, from his earliest days, imbued him with a love of gardening, and he began to recognize the artistic potential in the shapes, sizes and hues of flowers and plants.

In time, he came to regard landscape design as an art in itself, not as a backdrop or decoration to architecture. And he decided to specialize in it.

His aesthetics were nature based.

He never mixed flowers of different colors.

He preferred large groupings of the same specimen.

And he had a preference for plants that were natural to the regions in which he worked.

Burle Marx had a hand in designing some parts of Brasília, including its hanging gardens, but among Brazilians he is best known for his many projects to beautify the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Rio’s largest park, the Aterro do Flamengo, built on reclaimed seafront just southwest of downtown, is an early example of one of his signature projects.

But for sheer sweep, nothing surpasses the promenade of Copacabana, with its rippled sidewalks, clusters of palms and colorful abstract stone mosaics. From the upper floors of the hotels that line Avenida Atlantica, one appears to be looking at a single canvas four kilometers long.

Burle Marx’s most elaborate and time-consuming effort was the abandoned estate he bought in Guaratiba, near Rio, in 1948.

It was here that he established his garden, nursery and tropical plant collection. Functioning as his workshop, laboratory and office until his death, in 1994, at the age of 84, it is now owned by the Brazilian government. The Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, as it is now called, houses over 3,500 species of native plants. And has become a Mecca for landscape architects throughout the world.

Leighton - Monday


  1. In art, no matter what the form, it isn't enough to have the ability to "do". The artist has to be able to "see", to have a vision that flows from innate creativity.

    We can imagine what he saw in his mind's eye as he was planning the area along Copacabana, but we can only imagine it because he made it possible for us to see it.


  2. I visited a public botanical garden in Rio once and was amazed by the naturalness of it, also by the famed walkway on Cocabana beach!

  3. What a wonderful post about an amazing man, I haven't visited Brazil (yet) but I did go to Kuala Lumpur a few years ago and saw the wonderful garden there that Marx was the head designer for - it is magical.

    Having had our own extensive flooding here in the past 3 weeks (not where I am though for which I am most grateful) it has really hit home that mother nature can strike anywhere but there is a vast disparity in the impact she can have on you depending on how wealthy you are. I guess I knew that intellectually but it's not until you contrast images of Queensland with Brazil and Pakistan that I really 'got' it.

  4. South Africa is also experiencing terrible floods. Over 40 killed and thousands without homes. Where is all this water coming from?

  5. How awful for the people of South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, and those hit in Queensland.

    However, this post is wonderful, about a terrific artist, who obviously saw the beauty in nature and was able to use it for beautiful art.

    Learned something new here, which I appreciate; will look for further of his artistic landscapes and gardens on the Web.