Burle Marx was the first Brazilian landscape architect to depart from the classical principles of formal garden design. His asymmetrical plans and his use of native vegetation, colorful pavements, and free-form bodies of water have influenced landscape artists worldwide. His meticulous research on and cultivation of plant species indigenous to Brazil’s tropical regions were cornerstones of his designs; by choosing plants that naturally thrive in the climate and soil of the site and by including evergreens and perennials, Burle Marx produced gardens that are easy to maintain and thus in keeping with modern lifestyles.
Burle Marx was a painter by training, and his designs, with their careful juxtapositions of contrasting colors, shapes, and textures, have been likened to paintings or, in light of their ever-evolving nature, living works of art. Whimsical and somewhat reminiscent of Surrealist compositional forms, his curvilinear designs evoke the work of Jean (Hans) Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró.
Burle Marx designed the landscaping for Ibirapuera Park in collaboration with Niemeyer, an architect with whom he had worked on several landmark projects. The latter’s freestanding structures, characterized by their bold combination of elementary geometric forms, are in a constant dialogue with Burle Marx’s sinuous landscaping. The organically shaped planting beds, pathways, and bodies of water all aim to integrate landscape with architecture, forming a synthetic entity that decisively shaped twentieth-century Brazilian modernism.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Burle Marx was the first Brazilian landscape architect to depart from the classical principles of formal garden design. He introduced asymmetrical plans that have influenced landscape architects ever since. These included the use of native vegetation, colorful paving, and free-form bodies of water. A painter by training, Burle Marx treated landscape as a living work of art, with carefully studied juxtapositions of contrasting colors, shapes, and textures. Burle Marx designed the landscaping for Ibirapuera Park, and the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who celebrates his hundredth birthday this year, designed its buildings. Burle Marx's plan for the park includes organically shaped planting beds, pathways, and bodies of water, illustrating his project of integrating landscape with architecture. Burle Marx and Niemeyer had worked on several projects together, and in the 1930s and 1940s had collaborated with Le Corbusier on the Ministry of Education and Public Health Building in Rio de Janeiro.
Gallery label from 75 Years of Architecture at MoMA, 2007.