Burle Marx was a Brazilian visionary landscape architect as well as a painter, ecologist, naturalist, artist… you name it, he’s done it. He is responsible for the small black and white tiles flowing like waves along the entire beach promenade. The creative use of tiles continues throughout the city- a stunning work of art, and a challenge for those in heals to walk on (It is quite challenging, and walking around, you will notice many people decked out in nice clothes, with Havianas on their feet!)
I took a trip up to his Santo Antonio da Bica sítio in Barra de Guaratiba, an estate he purchased in 1949 to store his plant collection. In 1985 after he passed away the property was donated to the Brazilian government in trust for posterity and has become a National Monument. FYI– You have to make an appointment to visit (9:30am or 1:30pm slots available) and it costs R$8 when you arrive.
It is beautiful, as one would expect from South America’s foremost landscape architect, and holds an important tropical botanical collection. In this first section (above) while walking through I actually felt like I was inside my favorite childhood book The Secret Garden. When we reached the agave area (below)it felt more like a scene from a Dr Suess book, each area had something unique that you could relate to- in my case send me back to my childhood. There are more than 3,500 different species of plants! Unfortunately there are also about 3,500 mosquito’s—remember to use bug spray!!! I am SO itchy now:(
The sítio has a marvelous house which was unfortunately under construction while we were there and a small Benedictine chapel that dates back to the 17th century; dedicated to St. Anthony, featuring a small shrine to Our Lady of Aparecida, one of Brazil’s patron saints. You can still attend mass or even get married there if you want to, its been beautifully restored and you almost feel transported to the 17th century when you enter.
There are a number of sculptures scattered throughout the massive gardens, unfortunately none of the water sculptures were up and running but we were able to enjoy the wooden sculptures surrounding his huge studio (more like its own house). The below is my favorite. The piece of wood it was found on a sunken ship and carved into an image or Christ with people holding on to his beard and body trying to be saved. With exquisite detail, I found it to be quite moving.
This is a little corner of Rio that Burle Marx left for the world to marvel, experience and learn from.