Roberto Burle Marx

Roberto Burle Marx was an internationally renowned landscape architect. His work can be found around the world, but it is in Rio de Janeiro, where he lived most of his life, that we find his most major achievements.

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Roberto Burle MarxRoberto was a member of the traditional Burle Dubeux family of French descent from the state of Pernambuco, and a son of Wilhelm Marx, a German Jew who was born in Stuttgart. His mother was a pianist and singer who inspired her children to love music and plants. From a young age Roberto around the garden as she took daily care of their many species of plants, including roses, begonias and caladiums. He also learned to prepare seedbeds and observed the germination of seeds from the garden and the kitchen garden.

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At the age of 19, because of an eye problem, Roberto moved to Germany for medical treatment and while there became familiar with the artistic avant-garde movement. Amongst the many exhibitions he visited, Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and Paul Klee had a profound effect on the young man and pushed him towards the study of painting. After studying at the studio of Degner Klemn, he returned to Rio de Janeiro and entered the National School of Fine Arts, currently the School of Fine Arts of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. There he studied and was in touch with renowned names in Brazilian modern architecture, such as Oscar Niemeyer, Hélio Uchôa and Milton Roberto.

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Garden created by burle marxHis first project to design a public garden was the Plaza de Casa Forte in Recife. He assumed the position of Director of Parks and Gardens at the Department of Architecture and Urbanism of Pernambuco, where had to deal with a work of slightly eclectic inspiration, designing over 10 squares. During that job, he made extensive use of the native vegetation—a unique approach which earned him national renown. As a result he was invited to design the gardens of the building Edifício Gustavo Capanema (then The Ministry of Education and Culture). In 1935, when designing the Square Euclides da Cunha (the International Square, also known as Cactário Madalena) ornamented with plants of the savanna and of the Northeastern backlands, he sought to rid the gardens of the "European stamp", in favour of sowing the Brazilian soul and spreading the sense of being Brazilian. In 1937 he created the first Ecological Park in Recife.

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He played an essential part in the definition of Brazilian Modern Architecture, having worked in teams responsible for many famous projects. The terrace-garden designed for the afore-mentioned Capanema building is considered a milestone in the concept of Brazilian landscape. Defined by native vegetation and winding pathways, the garden (with areas reserved for contemplation) is a unique design in Brazil and, indeed, the world at large.

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From then on, Burle Marx began to work in an organic and evolutionary style, which identified itself with artistic vanguards such as abstract art, concretism and constructivism, amongst others. The floor plans of his projects often resemble abstract canvases in which the spaces created favour the formation of nooks and paths through the elements of native vegetation.

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