The Cooper Union
School of Architecture


"What is extraordinary is how admirably the baroque and the rococo adapted themselves to the Brazilian landscape. One cannot imagine Brazil with the Cathedral of Chartres or that of Cologne: the land of Brazil is so baroque that one has the impression that the style was born here…"
Roberto Burle Marx: Considerações sobre Arte Brasileira, 1966

What is the legacy that the colonial baroque period brings to the modernist movement in Brazil? And what is the role of surface and pattern in defining place in the public landscape? This project examines the influence of the baroque field on the early Brazilian modernists, and analyzes its role in the landscape, via a study of the work of Roberto Burle Marx.

Nine public gardens, projected or built by Burle Marx between 1934–64, were selected and drawn for case-study analysis. The notion of ground pattern emerged, and was studied through a series of paintings of colonial baroque floor tiles. Might a field condition emerge from interior space, affecting the surface of the landscape? A large-scale installation of two native Brazilian grasses (São Carlos/Santo Agostinho) examines this transformation. The two different textures/tones of grass are cut and planted in the traditional Portuguese mar largo double wave pattern, as seen in the stone paving of pedra portuguesa along the Copacabana beachfront. Surface is thus transformed from hardscape into the softscape of tropical ground.

Visiting Professor, Adjunct Faculty