RIO DE JANEIRO – A country retreat on the outskirts of Rio that boasts one of the largest collections of tropical and subtropical plants on the face of the earth has been nominated by Brazil to join the list of World Heritage Sites.
The Burle Marx Site is a 40.5-hectare (100-acre) property bought in 1949 by internationally acclaimed landscape architect and painter Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994).
He donated the estate to the Brazilian government in 1985 to ensure that its botanical riches would be maintained and to create a space for the dissemination of knowledge about conservation.
The site is covered by plants of 3,500 different species. Many of them are rare and exotic and some can no longer be found in their original habitats.
Scattered across the property are five reflective pools and seven greenhouses, while visitors can also tour Marx’s residence and a museum holding 3,000 items, including works of art, books, architectural plans and antiquities.
The most remarkable aspect of the site, however, are the gardens created by Marx as he experimented with variations of colors, confections, combinations and textures drawing on the plants he collected during his travels through Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In January, nearly four years after nominating the Burle Marx estate for World Heritage Site status, the Brazilian government submitted its formal proposal to the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is set to designate new sites in mid-2020.
“Essentially, what makes the house an exceptionally good candidate to be inscribed on the World Heritage list is the fact that it was a place of experimentation,” architect and designer Claudia Storino, who manages the site on behalf of Brazil’s National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN), told EFE.
The property, she said, was where Marx created the “concept of the modern tropical garden was created, an important movement for landscaping and architecture that affected the whole world.”
Preserved at the site are the experiments Marx carried out before designing the nearly 3,000 public and private gardens that constitute the most visible part of his legacy, as well as his vast output in other artistic disciplines, such as engravings, serigraphs, drawings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramic panels, jewelry and theatrical sets.
“All of us who work here are certain that it will be declared a Heritage (site) because of its importance to the world, but also people who have visited us – such as specialists in botany, architecture, landscaping and UNESCO consultants – agree that it meets the conditions,” Storino said.