The Ministry of the Army is a well-known public garden Roberto Burle Marx composed in 1970, located in Brasilia, Brazil. The project was a joint effort between Roberto Burle Max and Oscar Niemeyer. The park was meticulously color-coded: the finished gardens reproduced, in plots of vegetation and crushed stone, or painted pavement, the precise colors, as well as shapes, of his high-color gouache plan studies.
Ministry of the Army Gardens Technical Information
- Landscape Artist: Roberto Burle Marx
- Topics: Landscape Architecture, Gardens, Triangular Shapes
- Location: Brasilia, Brasil
- Project year: 1970
A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant – rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance – but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.– Roberto Burle Marx1
Ministry of the Army Gardens Photographs
Ministry of the Army Gardens
This public garden consists of a dynamic geometrical design, which follows the shape of the area. It is based on a triangular motif, but it also features heavily contrasting colors. The garden is a very open space, appropriate for holding a large crowd of people. The ground of this site is made up of granite slabs and Portuguese stone, which is crossed by continuous plant beds filled with extravagant and colorful flowers and plants.
In the center of the garden is a lake, useful in the hot climate, reflecting the surrounding sculptures’ images. These sculptures are placed for visual aesthetic, along with anchors for the aquatic plants. The sculptures are shaped like crystals, which symbolize a tribute to the mineral riches of Goias. One problem with this garden was that many proposed plants were not able to be planted, so a large number of buriti, a local palm tree, and ornamental grasses were planted. The reflections of these plants in the lake, along with the reflection of the sculptures, create contrast in that area.
Burle Marx Landscape Style
Burle Marx’s artistic style was avant-garde and modern. Much of his work has a sense of timelessness and perfection. He explored an anti-mimetic and skeptical aesthetic developed from modernism with a distinctly Brazilian style. His designs were also influenced by cubism and abstractionism.
His aesthetics were often nature-based, such as never mixing flower colors, utilizing big groups of the same specimen, using native plants, and making a rocky field into a relaxing garden. He was very interested in each plant’s character and what effect that has on the whole park. He sought depth in his designs by understanding how animals interacted with plants and how they bloomed, amongst other plant characteristics.
Burle Marx had a great skill in utilizing the sculptural form of plants. Burle Marx was mindful of the dynamic of walking through a garden. The sensation of mobility is an essential element of experiencing his landscapes. He also made clever use of enormous scale, lighting, and reflection, particularly in his water use. Burle Marx was able to extend the architecture of a building into the garden. He preferred to work in public spaces because, in his words, they can provide dignity for the masses.
Marx’s work can be summarized in four general design concepts:
- The use of native tropical vegetation as a structural element of design,
- The rupture of symmetrical patterns in the conception of open spaces,
- The colorful treatment of pavements,
- The use of free forms in water features.
Gardens of the Ministry of the Army Plans and details
About Roberto Burle Marx
Roberto Burle Marx was a Brazilian landscape architect (as well as a painter, printmaker, ecologist, naturalist, artist, and musician) whose designs of parks and gardens made him world famous. He is accredited with having introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil.
He was a modern nature artist and a public urban space designer. His work significantly influenced tropical garden design in the 20th century. Water gardens were a prevalent theme in his work. He was deftly able to transfer traditional artistic expressions such as graphic design, tapestry, and folk art into his landscape designs. He also designed fabrics, jewelry, and stage sets.
Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist by Jens Hoffmann and Claudia J. Nahson (2016)