Relating Architecture to Landscape

By Jan Birksted | Go to book overview

Jacques Leenhardt


Playing with artifice: Roberto Burle Marx’s gardens

It is tempting to talk about Burle Marx by starting with what appears to be the most extraneous aspect of his life: Brazil. Burle Marx indeed is from Brazil, in a number of ways. He is from a country whose name derives from Haemoatoxylum braziletto, a tree with wood the colour of embers that has been prized since early antiquity, and that Europe used to import from Asia in the Middle Ages. The Portuguese were delighted to find abundant supplies of it when they landed on the coasts of South America. The life of Burle Marx, like that of Brazil, has been closely bound up with wood and the forest and with plants such as coffee and hevea which made and broke the country’s social and economic destiny, as well as with nature and its lushness.

And yet there was nothing automatic about Burle Marx’s encounter with his own country and its extraordinary flora. When he came into the world in 1909, Roberto Burle Marx was born into a country that was still scarred by a long period of cultural dependence. At that time, everything that was beautiful or good came from Europe: manners, taste and style. If people wanted to maintain their position in Rio de Janeiro or São Paolo society, they had to denigrate the products of the land in which they lived. It did not occur to anybody that native plants could be used for decorating the gardens of the aristocracy, even though, in 1908, dom João VI, driven away from Portugal by the arrival of Napoleon, had planted the magnificent Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro which still today is the pride of the Cariocas—the inhabitants of that city. Botanical science may well have been interested in native plants, but the floral decoration of private and public gardens comprised only roses, carnations and gladioli imported from Europe. It took other stimuli than those emanating from local fashionable society for Burle Marx to discover the infinitely varied vegetation of the different regions of Brazil.

Born in São Paolo of a recently arrived German immigrant father and a mother whose family of French and Dutch origin had settled a long time back in the state of Pernambouc in the north-east of the country, Burle Marx was also a son of old Europe. A family trip to Berlin in 1928 was an opportunity for him to discover what he was unable to see in Brazil because it was too close and taken for granted: tropical flora.

The Botanical Gardens of Berlin-Dahlem had followed the fashion for hothouses for tropical plants that had developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The

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Relating Architecture to Landscape
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • Section One 13
  • Introduction 15
  • Introduction - To Modern Gardens (1953) 16
  • Section Two 39
  • Introduction 41
  • Time and Temporality in Japanese Gardens 43
  • Notes 57
  • Some Recommended Books on Japanese Gardens 58
  • Detailing and Materials of Outdoor Space: the Scandinavian Example 59
  • Notes 75
  • Playing with Artifice: Roberto Burle Marx’s Gardens 77
  • Section Three 103
  • Introduction 105
  • External Interior/Internal Exterior Spaces at the Maeght Foundation 106
  • 1 - Plan of Prague Castle 120
  • References 157
  • The Re-Invention of the Site 158
  • Notes 172
  • Section Four 175
  • Introduction 177
  • Hans Scharoun, Schminke House, LöBau, Saxony 1932-33: Garden by Herta Hammerbacher and Hermann Mattern 178
  • Notes 193
  • 1 - Road to Acropolis, Sketch 194
  • Notes 204
  • Notes 227
  • Section Five 229
  • Introduction 231
  • The Necessity of Invention: Bernard Lassus’s Garden Landscapes 232
  • Notes 243
  • The Prospect at Dungeness: Derek Jarman’s Garden 244
  • Notes 258
  • Building in Nature 261
  • Contributors 281
  • Index 285
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