The invention of tropical landscaping: Burle Marx

The emerging economy we refer to as  “Brazil”  is also a country discovering its pride and values. Culture has an important role in this.

Culture forging values

Evolving from colonial roots, when everything that was good was imported,  Brazil has slowly built its own cultural references. Music wise, there is samba, choro and bossa nova, for example. In architecture, one can name Oscar Niemeyer. We have authors like Jorge Amado, Rubens Fonseca, Machado de Assis and Guimaraes Rosa, who express this unique mix of culture: a pitch of  European taste, another pitch of African,  Indian, Arab, Asian.. a melting pot. Among the crafting of Brazilian references, stand the name of Roberto Burle Marx, a genius who created the tropical landscape and stood as a pioneer in environmental awareness.

Burle Marx is one of the greatest landscape artists  of the twentieth century was at once painter, sculptor, poet, musician, designer jewelry and stage sets.He is also considered the father of the Brazilian garden.  The “style Burle Marx” has become synonymous with Brazilian landscape in the world.

No other landscape architect had such extensive intervention in the urban space in the world, according to philosopher and Claudio Pfeil. Burle Marx was a pioneer in using native Brazilian plants. He made the bromeliads popular: today these natural plants of the Atlantic forest are grown in nurseries thanks to him.

Trip to Europe and political stand


Burle Marx studied in Berlin during the late 1930ths.

“He had a political view, before all the ecological movements. 50 years ago he perception of the importance of environmental aspects in beauty and life. He was very critical of the government, point out the omission to preserve Brazilian enviroment. It is specially remarkable when we think that he spoke out in a moment where civil liberties in Brazil were constrained by the military government,” explains Claudio.

Burle Marx and Monet: a parallel

If you compare Burle Marx with Monet: Burle Marx was much more sophisticated in terms of landscaping.  He searched in the gardens to create a palette effect; a natural canvas. He worked with texture of the plants. He did more and looked for a composition in the scent of the plants.

His works have the genius to create real places, regardless of the situation in the city, in architecture in the landscape. His landscape work is the epitome of the “nature city”, a concept rooted in the late nineteenth century with the garden cities and is poised for strong growth in the twenty-first century, with the model of the compact city.

Self Portrait

The Paris Exposition

This retrospective Roberto Burle Marx, The Permanence of the Instable. at La Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimoine was designed  for the Paço Imperial Rio de Janeiro and then presented to the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in 2009.  This is an opportunity to discover all aspects of his work: the approach to large-scale urban customized private residences, from Rio to Brasilia via Sao Paulo and Recife.

Published by Hildete Vodopives

Hildete de Moraes Vodopives is founder of Brazil Global and of the Harvard Strategists Group. She has a PhD in Economic History and advises companies and investment agencies in international business development.She served as Corporate Relations Director and later, on the board of the Brazilian Investment Analysts Association (APIMEC).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s