Sitio Burle Marx

By Megan Bridges

The famous landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx was born in August 4, 1909 in São Paulo, Brazil, to German-Jewish parents. He was an avid painter and drawer in his childhood, and when he turned 18-years-old he traveled to Europe to be formally educated in painting. While abroad, however, he encountered a collection of Brazilian plants in the Botanical Garden of Dahlen that transformed his career ambitions. Instead of becoming a painter, he was now determined to pursue landscape architecture. He returned to Brazil, and in 1932 got his big break when he was asked to design a garden in Copacabana for the architect Lúcio Costa. He later went on to design the Parks and Gardens in Pernambuco, Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro, and Sitio Burle Marx in Barra de Guaratiba (Figure 1), among others.

Sitio Burle Marx serves as a model of cultural heritage and a site of ecological preservation. At 365,000 square meters, the Sitio is the largest botanical garden in Brazil, and it includes thousands of tropical and semitropical plant varieties from across Latin America, including the Amazon Rainforest (Figures 2 & 3). The Euryale ferox, the Pandanus baptisi, and the Merianthera burle-marxii are among the flora that can be found as one wanders through the now-government controlled estate. Although Roberto Burle Marx was the landscape architect behind the design, the success of the garden is attributed to the team of truck drivers, ushers, observers, and seekers involved in the project. With their specialized knowledge of plant transplantation, they were able to ensure the livelihoods of 90% of the plants introduced to the property.

The property was acquired in 1949, and it served as the residence of Burle Marx and his brother, Siegried. In addition to the botanical garden, the site includes a 17th-century Benedictine chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony, a farmhouse, and an artist studio. In 1985, the Sitio Burle Marx was donated to IPHAN (Institute of Historical Patrimony and National Art) to be used as a resource for landscape architects in how to make gardens (Figure 4). In 1999, the house of Burle Marx opened as a museum, and it currently displays “objects of poetic emotions.” These objects include the 3,125 members of his arts and crafts collection. Some of the art pieces include Afro-Brazilian water jugs and figurines, as well as several of Burle Marx’s own paintings (Figure 5). Additionally, a large Brazilian clam and wood-carved animals are prominently displayed (Figure 6). They are subtle references to the Afro-Brazilian syncretic religion, Candomblé, whose believers use such objects to ward off evil spirits.

Image Appendix

Figure 1:

Photo by Emma Schad

Figure 2:

Sitio Kenyatta 1
Photo by Kahaari Kenyatta

Figure 3:

Photo by Emily Siegel

Figure 4:

Photo By Emma Schad

Figure 5:

Photo By Emma Schad

Figure 6:

Photo By Emma Schad

Works Cited:

“Centro Cultural Sítio Roberto Burle Marx.” IPHAN. Accessed May 12, 2015.

Dias, Roberio. “Escritos.” Escritos Na Paisagem. Accessed May 12, 2015.

Dias, Roberio. “Estrelas Do Sítio Burle Marx.” Roberio Dias. Accessed May 12, 2015.

“Sítio Burle Marx.” Lonely Planet. Accessed May 12, 2015.


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