DECO Icon: Roberto Burle Marx

Copacabana Beach pavement design. Photo: Bruno Veiga, Portuguese Stones book

Influential Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx left his iconic creative mark not only in Brazil but in over 2000 gardens and public urban spaces he designed in 20 countries, including the United States, France, Germany, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru.

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Top: aerial images of the Copacabana boardwalk, photographs by Bruno Veiga as featured in his book Portuguese Stones; Bottom: mineral roof garden, Banco Safra headquarters, Sao Paulo, photograph by Leonardo Finotti

One of the most influential landscape architects of the 20th century, Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994)  was also a painter, print maker, ecologist and musician. He’s one of those visionary people seemingly so ahead of his time that he makes one wonder how they fit all their talent and accomplishments into one life. A renowned artist, Marx’s geometric and abstract landscape work followed the same graphic nature as his paintings and tapestries,  and he is accredited with having introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. Marx’s iconic seaside pavement designs running along  Rio de Janeiro ‘s Copacabana Beach are one of his most recognised and well-documented works.

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Top: Roberto Burle Marx was instrumental in conservation of the Brazilian rainforest; Bottom: the iconic seaside pavement design along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

“By organizing native plants in accordance with the aesthetic principles of the artistic vanguard, especially Cubism and abstractionism, he created a new and modern grammar for international landscape design.”

– Lauro Cavalcanti, curator Paco Imperial museum

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Top: Copacabana Beach pavements photo – moderndesign.org and cfileonline.org; Marx tapestry – nytimes.com; Bottom left: Burle Marx print photo – t3.gstatic.com. Bottom right: Rooftop garden of the Ministry of Education and Health, photograph by Cesar Barreto

Often venturing on expeditions into the Brazilian rainforest with botanists and photographers in search of rare and exotic plants, he was highly involved in environmental preservation and conservation. Discovering new species on these botanical trips, over 50 plants bear his name (such as Heliconia burle-marxii) and amassed a huge collection of plants in his own home and garden.

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Roberto Burle Marx’s own home in Brazil. Photographs by Filippo Poli, www.subtilitas.site

…the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant – rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance – but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.

– Roberto Burle Marx


LEARN MORE:
The Roberto Burle Marx exhibition at  Jewish Museum, New York, in collaboration with the Sítio Roberto Burle Marx.
May 6 – September 2016

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