Kelly Chan

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Roberto Burle Marx: A Master of Much More than Just Modernist Landscape

This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Green Thumb."

At any given moment when walking through Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist at the Jewish Museum in New York, one may hear a soft rushing of waves, mixed with the murmur of an open-air crowd. A narration in Portuguese, both spoken and sung, will drift breezily in and out. This is the soundscape of Plages, a 2001 video by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Shot from an aerial perspective above Copacabana Beach, the film shows the popular Rio de Janeiro waterfront not in its usual sunlit splendor but in the artificially lit nocturne of New Year’s Eve 2000. Celebrators teem in the space between city and ocean, in the moment between one year and the next, moving in dynamic patterns amid the immense designs laid out by Roberto Burle Marx.

Burle Marx’s design for a rooftop garden at the Ministry of Education and Health (1938). Image © Burle Marx & Cia. Ltda., Rio de Janeiro. Reproduced with permission. All rights reservedAn untitled work in collage, made in 1967, illustrates Burle Marx’s diverse artistic pursuits. Image Courtesy of Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Rio de JaneiroA cover design for a 1953 issue of Rio magazine. Burle Marx experimented with new forms in different formats, including works of sculpture, which he often integrated into his landscape designs. Image Courtesy of Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Rio de JaneiroA model of a sculptural landmark for the unrealized Praça Sérgio Pacheco, City Hall, Uberlândia project (1974). Image © Burle Marx & Cia. Ltda., Rio de Janeiro. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved+ 11