Journal
Pioneering Paisagem; The Inspirational Work of Roberto Burle Marx
How the Brazilian landscape architect changed the parameters of landscape architecture.

If you see abstract curvations, obtuse angles and a considered colour palette that somehow metamorphs into a landscape whilst simultaneously painting it brazenly you can assume it’s a product of (even if not directly) Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx.

Marx’s work is embedded in Rio de Janeiro’s DNA and is a main source of inspiration for our Spring Summer ’19 Paisagem collection. Marx could be dubbed a ‘pioneer of paisagem’; establishing a fresh perspective of what landscape architecture could be.

Roberto Burle Marx, Mineral Roof Garden, Banca Safro Headquarters, Sao Paolo

Born in Sao Paolo in 1901 to a mother of French ancestry and a German-Jewish father, Marx had a rich tapestry of cultural influences from a young age, which laid the foundations for his future ventures. His family moved to Brazil’s then capital Rio de Janeiro in 1913 and the cities bustling energy provided the onset of enthusiasm for the arts. Though it wasn’t until Marx visited Berlin’s Dahlem Botanical Gardens in 1928 whilst studying painting in Germany, that he became aware of his native country’s natural flora.

He returned to Rio de Janeiro two years later to study at the National Academy of Fine Arts with a revived perspective on the parameters of art and began applying it to the landscapes that ignited his initial passion for visual expression and design. He began to experiment both in and out of his studio, creating abstract paintings that would become blueprints for his admired landscape architecture.

Roberto Burle Marx in his studio, Rio de Janeiro

He started working with plantings; creating small scales designs which caught the attention of his university professor, architect Lúcio Costa. Enthralled with Marx’s work, Costa commissioned him to design a garden for the house of Schwartz House – becoming his first work public work.

Roberto Burle Marx, Biscayne Boulevard, Miami

Marx’ cultivated artistic nature and fervour for his craft and the natural world lead to the creation of some of landscape architectures most influential works. When creating his pieces, Roberto Burle Marx looked to the landscape not only from the perspective of the land itself but also from a birds-eye view; his designs become a true spectacle when viewed from above. He had an earnest interest in vegetation and nature itself, understanding the ways that he could work with rather than against it to manifest the modernist designs that he’d once realised with paints and canvas alone.

Marx’s cultivated artistic nature and fervour for his craft and the natural world lead to the creation of some of landscape architectures most influential works.

Of course, Roberto Burle Marx did not work with vegetation exclusively; one of his most recognisable pieces is the Copacabana Promenade, of which draws inspiration from the intricate tiling of Portuguese sidewalks. Portugal, and specifically Lisbon are at the core of copious Brazilian buildings and architectural achievement. Portuguese settlers established Brazil’s metropolitan cities and even though a multitude of ethnicities have had authority on the countries modern day culture, the footprints of these first settlers are still evident, and potently so in the work in Roberto Burle Marx.

Roberto Burle Marx, Clambônia, 1986

The structured, yet fluid formations that are present in Roberto Burle Marx’s landscape architecture are also reminiscent of the contemporary art movements that were prevailing in Brazil at the time when Marx’s was working – though Marx’s work holds a unique naïvevity and charm, perhaps born through the use of nature, of which was one of his true passions. Roberto Burle Marx was committed to the study of horticulture and environmental issues; sourcing new plant specimens (over 50 species are named in his honour) and campaigning against deforestation in Brazil, as a means to salvage and preserve the tropical vegetation that stimulated his imagination and founded his life-long interest.

Roberto Burle Marx’s avant-gardist landscape architectural achievements continue to be held in high esteem by those within his field, simply admired by the general public, and serves as an inspiration to some.  Our Spring Summer ’19 Paisagem collection takes cues from the birds-eye view perspective of his landscape architecture resulting in new organic, geometric prints in a colour palette that reflects the tropical botanical world.

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