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Roberto Burle Marx: The Lyrical Landscape. (Botanical Abstractions).

By Marta Iris Montero. London: Thames and Hudson. 2001. [pounds sterling]29.95

It is 10 years since the publication of the last book about Burle Marx. An artist with many talents, painter, sculptor and musician, he disliked writing about his ideas. Thus his colleague, Marta Iris Montero's book, starts by explaining 'what he was like, how he worked and how he thought' in early chapters on his life, art and landscape.

His fascination with botany started in 1928, when he was an art student in Berlin. In the Botanical Gardens of Dahlem he saw the extraordinary tropical plants of his native Brazil for the first time (such plants were spurned by the fashionable European gardeners then working in Brazil.) After his return in 1929 he began to work with Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer whose new architecture drew references from the landscape and history of Brazil rather than Europe. Marx's use of native plants in appropriate ecological groupings, in conjunction with South American cultural artefacts provided ideal landscape settings for their buildings. In 1949 he established his own garden at St Antonio de Bica (now the Burle Marx Foundation) which included a nursery for the indigenous South American flora which he discovered on his many plant collecting trips to the interior.

The second part of the book is devoted to details of 26 of his public and private landscapes. Unlike previous publications, it includes many plans (some redrawn from Marx's vanished or ruined originals) which show that the gardens are almost literally 'paintings made of plants'. Monochrome blocks, representing single species planting, undulate in sinuous curves of primary colour reminiscent of Miro or Arp. Many of the photographs are taken from high viewpoints, and show how the combination of sculptural plant forms and strong geometric paving patterns mean that landscapes can be appreciated from tower blocks or motorways, so often part of the South American context.
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Author:Young, Elizabeth
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Words:317
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