Roberto Burle Marx: Representing The Values Of Landscape Architecture In The 20th Century

The Landscape Architecture of the 19th Century

Roberto Burle Marx was a landscape architect besides a painter, artist, naturalist, ecologist and musician of a Brazilian origin who lived between 1909 and 1994. He gained fame from his design of parks and gardens and has been acknowledged to be the brain behind the introduction of modernist landscape architecture to Brazil (Davis 2015). He was commonly known as a modern nature artist and a public space designer with most of his works having a great influence on the design of the tropical garden in the 20th century. Water gardens were a polar theme in his work and could successfully create a transition of the traditional artistic expressions including tapestry, fork art and graphic design into the design for landscapes.

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Roberto Burle Marx practiced landscape architecture in the 19th century, a period during which a concept of time and space arose following industrial revolution that completely eroded the agrarian society. During this people, a large population of the people found their easy into the cities to supply labor that was required for running the industries. This led to a swelling in the urban population and this concern for the public welfare arose (Deckker 2016). The economic, political and social order of the western world was at the time defined by industrial production.

The ever rise in the belief in technology led to a backlash in which the romanticism turned to be the antidote to the ills that affected the mechanized society. For this people who belonged to the middle class, emotion overruled reason with imagination being pried more hat cultivated scholarship (Hepner & Macedo 2016). Nature was uplifted as the main source of inspiration with the members of the societies having a strong belief in natural phenomenon while acknowledging the natural beauty and to be both morally and spiritually uplifting.

The landscape architecture of the 19th century was thus Romantic, public and urban. As a result of the industrial revolution, there were tremendous changes that were experienced on the landscape as well as to the society (Waterman 2015). A new class of low wage employees was generated in the American and European cities following the change from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

The Romantic aspect of the 19th century made significant contribution to a perception and conception of nature as being restorative. It gave people an opportunity to have an understanding of the landscape both in the political, social and economic value and hence massive campaigns were mounted in a bid to access its benefits. Landscape architecture, by the end of the century, was a profession that seek accessibility, identity, transformation observation as well as collaboration between the various spaces in design.

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Roberto Burle Marx’s Landscape Architecture

These were the main guiding principles that kept in check landscape architecture design projects by Roberto Burle Marx and through excellently incorporating such concerns into his design; he was able to do famous and popular projects. The landscape architecture of the time was aimed at restoring the lost values and glory of landscape due to industrial revolution in which focus was shifted to working in the industries. Among the projects by Roberto Burle Marx that were representative of the values of their time include:

The mosaic promenade alongside the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Guided by his philosophy that a garden is different from any other form of art as to os designed for the future and the future generations, Roberto Burle Marx managed to successfully complete over 2000 garden projects in which he discovered almost 50 species of plants during the course. The mosaic promenade alongside the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro was a promenade, 4km in length and was completed in 1970.

It forms one of the giant abstract painting in which none of the sections long the promenade is similar to another, a painting is can be observed from the balconies of the hotels and provide an ever changing view for those who are having a drive along the beach. The paintings have been done in black and white waves which are representative of the white Americans and the black African slaves who had their history intertwining in Brazil (Romão et al., 2015). Even though they are not interwoven, the waves are intermingled and hence each of them has an influence on the other.

There are pockets of red within the white and black lines which are representative of the indigenous people of Brazil who were absorbed by the European and slaves population and thus remained isolated even though they were still able to have an influence on the presence of the other groups of people (Treib 2017). The design illustrates that their colours are minute patches that are found within the larger picture illustrating that their lands were smaller pockets within the enormous country.

This landscape design by Roberto Burle Marx served to attach values to the political developments and achievements that the country has gone through over the time and hence served to attach to political value (Hartman 2016). At a time when a large percentage of people were rushing to the cities owing to industrial revolution that introduced industrialization, there was need to remind them of the causes of their slow rate of growth in economic development as well as a reminder of their social life in the preceding centuries.

Projects by Roberto Burle Marx

The garden of the Clemente Gomes residence in Areias

This garden illustrates the sensitivity with which Roberto Burle Marx treated material. The garden mainly incorporated native flora in which Roberto Burle Marx spent a lot of his time in the identification and cultivation of the tropical undergrowth of Brazil. The garden of the Clemente Gomes residence serves to restore the lost beauty of the Brazilian environment through re-introduction of the native plant species (Foster 2015). This serves to improve the value of the natural environment and make the users of the space find comfort and relief from the noisy factories in the urban areas. The design also serves to be conservative of the environment and breathe a sense of life.

The framing of the indigenous plants in the organizing of the design as well serve to offer new significance, offering an expanded view of nature.

Roberto Burle Marx makes use of nonorganic and manmade elements in changing sites that have ceramic tiles, concretes sculptures and reserves f coloured minerals. In so doing, he made it clear that the landscaping materials needed to be reserved and focus should be shifted in the direction of nature conservation and restoration. A modern garden could thus not therefore afford to miss such important aspects (Doherty & Waldheim 2015).

Stull, his designs take note of the conditions of the site. The curators alluded to the fact that there are challenges of communicating the experience of the space since the ephemeral medium was made up of numerous conditions and facts that were inherently exiting in other places (Duempelmann & Beardsley 2015). Following their sprawling scale and the inorganic stability, the gardens and landscapes were found to be specifically resistant to the outline mechanics of representation.

From the landscape designs by Roberto Burle Marx, it can be deduced that his works were mainly focus on the conservation and restoration of the environment and beauty of nature and finding value once more in the natural environment (Wisnik 2016). His works were ideal in illustrating such values of the time as he successfully managed to incorporate the use of native plant species in the design of his gardens. Still, Roberto Burle Marx was able to create urban spaces in the crowded cities whose population tremendously grew following the heavy migration of people to offer labor in the industries. He managed to allow the city dwellers to interact with spaces that added more aesthetic to the city (Hoffmann & Nahson 2016).


Davis, B., 2015. Wider Horizons of American Landscape. Landscape Journal, 34(1), pp.79-96

Deckker, T., 2016. Brasília: Life Beyond Utopia. Architectural Design, 86(3), pp.88-95

Doherty, G. and Waldheim, C. eds., 2015. Is landscape…?: essays on the identity of landscape. Routledge

Duempelmann, S. and Beardsley, J. eds., 2015. Women, Modernity, and Landscape Architecture. Routledge

Foster, J., 2015. Modernity, Mining and Improvement (pp. 122-144). London: Routledge

Hartman, H., 2016. Seeds of change: Urban transformation in Brazil. Architectural Design, 86(3), pp.10-19

Hepner, A. and Macedo, S.S., 2016. Landscaping Brazil: The Legacy of Roberto Burle Marx. Architectural Design, 86(3), pp.118-125.

Hoffmann, J. and Nahson, C.J., 2016. Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist. Yale University Press

Romão, R., Martinelli, G., Crepaldi, I. and Martinez-Laborde, J.B., 2015. Brazilian biodiversity for ornamental use and conservation. Crop Breeding and Applied Biotechnology, 15(2), pp.100-105

Treib, M., 2017. Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist. Journal of Landscape Architecture, 12(1), pp.94-96

Waterman, T., 2015. The fundamentals of landscape architecture. Bloomsbury Publishing

Wisnik, G., 2016. Where to for Brazil’s Cities? Citizen Empowerment or Global Marketing?. Architectural Design, 86(3), pp.20-27.