About this talk

Running time: 30 minutes

The late Roberto Burle Marx was the first Brazilian ever to become a landscape architect, a career suggested to him while he was still an art student in Rio. While previously studying painting in Berlin in 1928, he had been enthralled by the exotic Brazilian plants he found in Dahlem Botanical Gardens, and he immediately started to plant native plants in the family garden on his return to Rio. His first commission for a garden design came from LĂșcio Costa and this led to his working on the gardens of the famous Ministry of Education building in Rio by Le Corbusier, Niemeyer (see Concrete Expression), et al, and then to the job of creating public gardens in Pernambuco - by which time he had established a completely new approach to landscape design, soon to become world famous, celebrating the glories of the exotic Brazilian flora.

He created one park after another, each more beautiful than the last, while he continued to paint, draw, sculpt, make jewellery and sing, each art form inspiring the others. To make a garden is an art, he says, you have not only to know the plants, but to understand the landscape and to organise nature on the basis of aesthetic laws. A garden is like a poem or like music and must be constructed as such, with crescendos and dramatic moments, but with simplicity and density, and the plants used must be native to the locality.

Not always able to find the plants he needed, he established his own nursery to multiply the precious specimens he collected, as part of his fight to ensure the survival of Brazilian flora.

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Roberto Burle Marx


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