Life without hard edges

Robert Burle Marx, Safra Bank roof garden, Sao Paulo 1982

I love working in the yard. One of my favorite activities is growing indigenous plant species, and working with my cacti. I’ve cleverly planted cacti along one edge of the pool as a special treat for anyone who dares to run at the pool.

Several years ago, I came across Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect. Marx (not one of the famous brothers) was born in 1909 and studied in Germany during the Weimar Republic. He initially considered the Brazilian vegetation as scrub, but evolved to recognize its inherent beauty. His forms clearly are derived from a modernist sensibility, with a touch of the organic. Marx’s landscapes read like a Miro painting or Calder sculpture. The paving at the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro echoes the forms of the waves and creates a wonderful sense of motion.

I was watching one of those design shows on HGTV yesterday. The owners of a new house insisted that the freeform palette shaped pool, clearly based on one of Marx’s forms be taken out and replaced with a rock/waterfall pool. I’m not one to talk back to the television, but I found myself doing that. “No, no, no, for the love of everything sacred, please no,” I found myself begging the hapless homeowners on the screen.

Roberto Burle Marx, Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro 1970

Robert Burle Marx, Cisneros Residence, Caracas 1980

Roberto Burle Marx, New York Botanical Garden

Roberto Burle Marx, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo 1953

Roberto Burle Marx, Safra Bank, Sao Paulo 1982

Roberto Burle Marx, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo 1953