Sítio Roberto Burle Marx: Everything You Need To Know About It | Kidadl


Sítio Roberto Burle Marx: Everything You Need To Know About It

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Brazil is known for its huge seaside cities. Rio de Janeiro is famous for its Copacabana beaches and other natural settings.

Barra de Guaratiba, in the western zone of Rio de Janeiro, stands on an ecological reserve. It is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage site, consisting of a botanical garden and landscape studio.

Roberto Burle Marx, a famous Brazilian landscape architect, and garden designer selected this ecological reserve area of Barra de Guaratiba to be his landscape laboratory. He created living works of art there. It is now named Sítio Roberto Burle Marx and is preserved by the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage or IPHAN). IPHAN is a Brazilian federal agency that preserves historical sites with a cultural and artistic heritage.


Roberto Burle Marx was born in Sao Paulo in 1909 and was brought up in Rio de Janeiro by parents with German and French ancestry. He went to Germany to study painting. A regular visitor to the Berlin botanical garden, Burle Marx became acquainted with Brazil's natural flora. His inspiration for landscaping came to life during his first stint in Germany. He returned to Brazil in 1930 and joined the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. He also started collecting plants after returning to Brazil. He met and was closely associated with many of Brazil's future architectural and botanical leaders during his National School days. They greatly influenced Burle Marx's personal and professional life.

Starting his first landscaping project in 1932 for the Schwartz house, he completed his first garden design in 1933. Burle Marx's work on a roof garden for the then Ministry of Education building gave him international recognition.

The area, Fazenda da Bica (also known as Engenho da Bica), which served the local population in Barra de Guaratiba, had a spout near the road which was a result of channeling water sources from the highest part of the land. It became famous and was named Engenho Santo Antonio da Bica after a chapel dedicated to Santo Antonio was built in 1681. Burle Marx came across this piece of land, which had its name changed to Sitio Santo Antonio da Bica while searching for spaces with abundant water, exposed rocks, and a variety of suitable soils. The land was also suitable since it was safe from speculations of the real estate industry.

When Burle Marx arrived in Guaratiba in 1949, there were only three remaining plots of land in Fazenda da Bica. Along with his brother Guilherme Siegfried Burle Marx, Burle Marx bought these remaining plots in the surrounding area where the chapel was constructed. They also bought neighboring lands in 1952 and 1960 and attached them to the initial property.

After the initial acquirement of the estate spread around a 365,000m² area in Sítio de Santo Antonio da Bica, Burle Marx frequented the Brazilian rainforest to gather plant specimens. At the same time, he also carried out necessary interventions to transform the estate into a laboratory. He installed buildings, created gardens, and plant nurseries along with his tropical plant collection. This property, developed over 4o years, now exhibits an ecological conception of form with a social collaboration based on environmental and cultural preservation.

In 1985, Burle Marx donated the site to the Brazilian government, which ensured his continuity of research. The federal government also ensured Burle Marx's intention to disseminate the knowledge acquired from these studies and share that unique piece of beautiful land with society.

Management of Burle Marx's estate was taken over by IPHAN after his death in 1994. Known now as Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, it found its place as a cultural heritage of Rio de Janeiro in 1988 and the Union in 2000. UNESCO inscribed this national monument on its World Heritage List in 2021.

Residents of Ilha or Barra de Guaratiba are provided a free visit to the Sitio with proof of residence and photo identification.

Flora and Fauna

Burle Marx envisioned a plan and developed the property, where he lived and produced during the last twenty years of his life. He used his property as a laboratory for landscaping experiments and created living works of art. It continues to be a laboratory today!

Sítio Roberto Burle Marx contains more than 3,500 species of subtropical and tropical plants. Organized in an area of ​​405 thousand square meters as nurseries and gardens, these plants coexist in harmony with native plants, along with its buildings, several lakes, many art collections, and a vast library.

The botanical collection of this Sítio is one of the rarest and most extensive of its kind, with an emphasis on plants native to Brazil. The location of this Sítio sits along the Atlantic Forest and is preserved by the Pedra Branca State Park. It is rich with areas of mangroves and sandbanks, along with the species collected by Roberto Burle Marx, which makes this site very unique.

The nurseries, intended for cultivation, acclimatization, and propagation of plants have an immense diversity of specimens. They belong to the Acanthaceae, Araceae, Cactaceae, Davalliaceae, Maranthaceae, Melastomataceae, Begoniaceae, Costaceae, Heliconiaceae, and Marantaceae species. Varieties of anthuriums, bromeliads, and orchids are also a part of its gardens.

Thirty-seven previously unidentified species were discovered by Burle Marx, and their scientific botanical names were coined after his Latinised name, 'Burle Marxii.' The epiphyte Aechmea Burle-marxii is a plant with variegated leaves and pink flower spikes. A plant with green and maroon strap leaves is named Neoregelia Burle-marxii. The Philodendron Burle-Marx is a deep-shaded non-climbing plant.

Consisting of eight buildings, a result of multiple constructions, restoration, or setting interventions, Sítio is an excellent place for the production and germination of seeds for replanting in gardens, donation, or exchange with institutions.

The architectural heritage of Sítio, as well as an artistic heritage, coexists with the botanical-landscape collection. The buildings, which house a library and collections of works of art, are also an abode for furniture and personal objects. These collections include various works from Burle Marx, himself. These buildings, integrating the environments, live in deep symbiosis with the gardens and lakes designed by the landscaper. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx demonstrates a landscape with an artistic heritage that fused creative ideas from the Modern Art Movement. 

The Sítio preserves the artistic heritage left behind by Burle Marx. It includes sculptures, paintings, textiles, elaborately carved puppets, and a fine assortment of pre-Colombian ceramics, which are also kept on display in the buildings and grounds.

Evidencing Burle Marx's focus on visual arts, the buildings in the Sítio are surrounded by small pools and rock outcroppings in natural-looking arrangements rich in colorful plant specimens of tropical plants and subtropical plants. This carefully crafted landscape, depicting artistic heritage, houses hundreds of species of ferns, bromeliads, Brazilian ironwood, rare lacquer palm of Malaysia, and many other trees filling the hillsides, wetlands, and caves.

A test tube for Roberto Burle Marx's landscaping project development work and garden design, the Sítio houses the Chapel of Santo Antônio da Bica, the Casa de Roberto, the Stone Kitchen, and the Stone House, the Loggia, the Administration Building, and the Atelier, all of which possess some variety of artistic heritage.

Surrounding Area

34.7 mi (56 km) from Rio de Janeiro's downtown, this Sítio is situated in the beachy neighborhood of Barra de Guaratiba, a region between the Atlantic Forest and Marambaia sandbank passing through the environmental protection area of ​​Praia da Brisa. The Guaratiba Beach is next to Barra de Guaratiba. Characterized by Brazilian rain forests, mangroves and mountains surround the place. Barra de Guaratiba has over 100 restaurants and bars that specialize in seafood in Brazilian cuisine with specialties like Moqueca de Peixe and Pastel de Camarão.

Inhabited for over 3,000,000 years, the first residents of this region were hunter-gatherers who lived by hunting, fishing, and collecting mollusks. The Tupi ethnic group who followed these hunter-gatherers gave it the name of Guaratiba, meaning 'gathering of guaras' in their language. Guaras was bright, red birds with thin, long beaks that were considered one of the most beautiful birds that ever existed on the planet.

In the Dicionário da hinterlândia carioca, Nei Lopes describes Guaratiba as a neighborhood of the 26th Administrative Region of Rio de Janeiro. It was described as land comprising an island and several rivers bordering the Guaratiba river. Divided into sub-neighborhoods and originating in 1579, this region was allotted to Manuel Veloso Espinha as a sesmaria from the Portuguese crown, which formerly belonged to the parish of São Salvador do Mundo de Guaratiba. Espinha and his family created sugar and brandy production facilities for export and developed this territory. Over time, as a result of the succession of owners, the land and properties were subdivided into smaller farms and mills located in the lowlands around the Pedra Branca Massif. This area currently belongs to the Pedra Branca State Park.

Burle Marx's performance in the region impacted the local economy greatly. He introduced the production of ornamental plants, creating a new vocation in the lands of Guaratiba. He trained several professionals in the 1990s. These trained professionals became garden owners and influenced other producers to earn a livelihood from this activity.

Barra de Guaratiba is the southernmost neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, situated in the west zone. The ocean bathes it with access channels to Sepetiba Bay. It borders the neighborhoods of Vargem Grande, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Grumari, and Guaratiba.

Restinga da Marambaia is a military area with restrictions to visitors with a 26.09 mi (42 km) long beach and calm waters offering a structure of houses, bars, and an urbanized hill. Access to this area is via Roberto Burle Marx Road. It is surrounded by several restaurants that serve crustaceans, seafood, and fish dishes. In addition to attractions of flora in the Atlantic Forest, the neighborhood contains large banana plantations and localities which tourists little explore.

Pedra do Telégrafo, a mountain height of 1(354-m), is also situated in Guaratiba. A moderately difficult trail to walk will take about 40 minutes to reach the mountain's top. Another trail on the coast of Guraratiba between Grumari leads to deserted and wild beaches, namely Funda, Inferno, Meio, and Perigoso.

Named Estrada Roberto Burle Marx, the road leading to the Sítio reveals the remarkable influence of Burle Marx's works, artistic heritage, and the presence of the Siítio in the surrounding community.

Rio de Janeiro is famous for Copacabana beaches


Q: When was Sítio Roberto Burle Marx designed?

A: The Sítio Roberto Burle Marx was designed in 1949.

Q: What is special about Sítio Roberto Burle Marx?

A: It is the first modern tropical garden house to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Q: Where is the Sítio Roberto Burle Marx located?

A: The Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is located in Barra Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro.

Q: Who built Sítio Roberto Burle Marx?

A: Roberto Burle Marx, a famous landscape architect, built Sitio Roberto Burle Marx and maintained it for over 40 years.

Q: How did it get its name?

A: It got its name from the architect Roberto Burle Marx, who designed, developed, and owned it.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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