Sítio Roberto Burle Marx
The Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is a landscaped estate that is an important example of Modernist Tropical garden design.
The most important works of the artist Robert Burle Marx are stored here. He was aligned with the Brazilian Modern Movement and is mostly known for his design of modern tropical gardens. He lived at this site from 1949 on and did his botany and garden landscaping experiments here, focusing on the use of native tropical plants and trees.
Community Perspective: easy to reach by metro/bus/Uber combi as it lies in the (far!) outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The obligatory guided tour can give you the creeps (read Zoë’s review), as the “emotional tribute to the artist” is not for all.
Map of Sítio Roberto Burle MarxLoad map
Seeing that it's just outside of Rio it's hard NOT to recommended going to see but frankly I am disappointed in the site not purely because it's rather mediocre but as a WHS there is no way it qualifies as one. It is instead an excuse to be inscribed as a homage to Burle Marx, who in my opinion broke several (not back in the days when he did it?) importing biological materials laws/guidelines and planted it all in his estate. Speaking of estate, he's a rich fellow and the huge divide between classes in Brazil makes this another questionable point: why we want to honor a person who imported luxurious art and plants to his estate while the rest of the country is struggling. I don't find him honorable and the estate itself is a poor example of his work.
Let's start from the top. First they have recently (start of 2022) begun a new online appointment system. Slots are limited with only a few guided tours per day and most of them are in Portuguese. The staff was super friendly when I got in touch with them while it was still closed for Covid-19 quarantine and announced when it was ready with their new appointment system. The English of the one particular staff (forgot his name, sorry) was particular good in both written and later in spoken during the tour.
You can stay in several lodges around the area but I would say the prices are a little more than you should pay for, unless I am missing something about them being in a more "green" environment to make this worth it, and in the end you still need to get there by car because the entry is away from these lodgings. I personally recommend either staying in western Rio itself or like me coming from the West just stay in Pedra de Guaratiba which has cheap lodgings, beach, food, safe, easy.
When you arriving in the morning you need to show your appointment to the security who have a list of expected visitors. It's quite strict but once they clear you it's time to drive further in to a small parking lot. That might also be why it's sort of strict because there are limited spaces and they don't want random people showing up to look at the museum part and fill up the driveways. The guide will greet you and usually I expect it would start on time but we were expected three more people so he showed me the introductory room (+restroom) to pass the time. After 10 minutes we gave up on them as accoring to the guide "good weather on Sunday in May means people would rather go to the beach" and the guest names were local so maybe they picked the wrong language anyway. Anyhow, the your finally started. The intro btw gives you a nice background on Burle Marx and the facilities, where he designed landscapes and other important things from his life.
The tour has several parts. First the greenhouses which are so-so, then the slope up which is probably the main draw because it's beautiful, has the main house in view with the heavy forest behind it and you can see the scenery changing as you go up. At this point I felt the place was nice because of nature and the beautiful day made it all enjoyable. Then when you get to the house the negative things started to creep up. For one, strange art, yeah to each of their own but I find that it's not why the place should be special and once again this feels rather elitist buying African totems to show off back home. It would get worse as you go inside the house, not because the house is bad but I just feel I dislike Burle Marx. There is a short clip of him playing piano (or was it singing to piano) and the kind of person he was just doesn't seem my type of guy I want to inscribe as world heritage. He designed beautiful landscapes and that's all fine, but we hardly see it here. The slope up to to the house is the main attraction for world heritage, the fountain over the roof is the second and there are some small paths if you decided to descend that way (people with bad legs are not recommended to take it although I think it's fine for most visitors unless you are handicapped).
Before the estate was huge but was mainly protected forest which is nice but once again not world heritage criteria, nowadays it doesn't go far beyond the houses and one isn't allowed into that area anyway. Before you finish the tour you go to another "elitist" summer house which has some interested design choices but nothing that caught my eyes to say I would compare it to someone like Corbusier.
Think of the botanical gardens at Padua University and notice how it's rather poor for a botanical garden but still important because it was the first one to start a trend, that's pretty much all there is to it. Would rather have seen a series of his work inscribed and then MAYBE it could include his home as well but by itself that's just wrong.
As you travel through Brazil's World Heritage sites, the name Roberto Burle Marx keeps on popping up. Almost as much as Oscar Niemeyer! A world-renowned garden designer, landscape architect, botanist, conservationist, painter, and tapestry weaver, Burle Marx's work features in several other Brazilian WH sites including Brasilia, Pampulha, and Rio. So in a way, it was quite fortunate for us that visiting his estate home, studio, acreage, and artistic legacy on the outskirts of Rio came near the end of our Brazil trip, rather than at the start.
Exploring the house, gardens, and studio on a guided tour gives you a fantastic insight into the man himself, his artistic development, and his passion for the incredible plants and landscapes of his beautiful homeland that so heavily inspired his works. Personally, I really enjoyed that the house and gardens have been preserved essentially as they were when Burle Marx died, so you can really see the final evolution of his ideas. And his tapestries and paintings on the walls are excellent too, showing the development from realism into Picasso-esque abstract designs.
Tickets - very important!
Visits to the property are only available via guided tours during 09:30-13:30 Tuesday through Saturday, and must be booked in advance. Reservations are done via their website: https://sitio-roberto-burle-marx.reservio.com/. They release an entire month of tickets at once, in the last week of the previous month (so for this September, tickets will be released 23rd August). Tickets get snapped up fairly quickly, so don't leave it to the last minute. There's options for both Portuguese and English, though the English groups are limited in size (8-10 people vs 30 people). Our preferred timeslot only had Portuguese available, but once on-site we were lucky enough to join the English tour thanks to a late cancellation. Tickets were still R$10 each, paid in cash on site.
As mentioned in Jarek's review below, the Sitio is on the far western outskirts of Rio and getting there can be quite a mission. Rather than pay a fortune for an Uber from central Rio or Copacabana, we decided to ride the safe and clean Metro to the final stop (Jardim Oceanico) and hail an Uber from there. It was R$45 and about 45 minutes from Jardim Oceanico to the Sitio, while the return back to Jardim Oceanico was R$40 and 45 minutes. I had been slightly concerned that Ubers might not exist that far out of the city, but the metro station is a transit hub for all the people living further out of town, and both of our requests were answered within a few minutes. If you get desperate, there's also a Brazilian-specific Uber competitor called 99, though we never actually needed to use it during our month in Brazil.
Read more from Joel on the Road here.
Isn't it lovely when you visit a tentative site, and it ends up inscribed years later? I visited Sitio Roberto Burle Marx back in 2017 while I was in Rio. It is well worth a half-day trip from the city and a good example of why WHS-based travel can be so rewarding -- it's a place I'd have never discovered had I not been looking at the lists (well, tentative lists at the time).
Burle Marx was a Brazilian landscape architect. The site consists of his house and gardens.
Logistics: I emailed the site to schedule a visit in advance and took an Uber from Barra da Tijuca, where I was staying (about a half hour); I had no issues calling an Uber for the return trip. I was able to get on an English-language tour, which I believe they had several of each week. Overall, this is a quick and easy site if you're already in Rio.
Site visited in March 2020. As Walter described all the aspects of the site I would focus more on practical issues.
It is a nice place, fully deserved to be on the list. Currently working hours of the place are quite difficult for visitors. It is not open on holidays nor on Sundays (Mondays either but that is more understandable). All individual visits have to be arranged in advance and there is only one English-speaking guide on the place. You can arrange the visit through their website:
Official leaflet says that the visits can take place only twice a day - at 9.30 and at 13.30 - tours up to 35 people but during my visit there were other groups that started a bit later than 9.30. Visit costs 10 R$, paid by cash only. Have in mind that Sitio is similar to any other botanical garden with its ponds and water so there are plenty of mosqitos (and other flying and biting creatures) there - be prepared with appropriate repelent.
It is possible to reach the place by public transport. The best way to get to the Sítio from central Riois to take the subway line until "Jardim Oceanico" station, and them take the "Rapid Transit Bus" (BRT in portuguese) until "Ilha de Guaratiba" station. After that, in Ilha de Guaratiba Station you can take another bus that leave you at the gates of the Sítio.
Another option is from Jardim Oceanico station, you can take the BRT until "Recreio Shopping" station and then take an Uber to the Sítio or take Uber from any other place in Rio.
As Sitio is located less than 2 km from Ilha de Guaratiba station you can also walk from there (which I did). As I stayed in the hotel located close to Avenida das Americas (at Barra da Tijuca) I took the bus until Recreio Shopping (do not confuse with Terminal Recreio) and than changed for normal bus going to Terminal Santa Cruz - take normal bus - not express bus as express ones are not servicing all bus stops. From Ilha de Guaratiba go south on Estr. Roberto Burle Marx, the site will be on the left after some 20 minutes of walking. From Ilha de Guaratiba there are brown road signs to Sitio Roberto Burle Marx.
Allow at least 2 - 2,5 hours to get to the Sitio from central Rio, it is quite far and some two - three to visit the place.
About 40 km west of Rio de Janeiro center, this site is a botanical park and museum dedicated to Roberto Burle Marx, a famous Brazilian landscape architect and avid collectors of plants and trees. Along with Oscar Niemeyer, Burle Marx achieved several modernist projects in Brazil, some already inscribed on the World Heritage Site: Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro (specifically for Copacabana pavements and Flamingo Park) along with the Palais de la Culture in Rio, which is on the TL.
It is planned for inscription for 2020.
In 1949 Burle Marx and his brother bought this banana plantation and slowly transformed the property into an extraordinary botanical landscape with an impressive collection of tropical and subtropical plants. He built a small house with contemporary features, and lived there from 1973 to his death in 1994. Several other buildings dot the park: a 17th century renovated chapel, a visitor’s center designed by Burle Marx when he donated the park to the Brazilian state, and a “atelier” in which he planned to teach, but never had a chance to. Nowadays lectures and concerts are held in this last building.
His house now displays an emotional tribute to the artist, with personal objects (his bed, with his glasses and shoes, his piano), his work (statues, paintings, drawings, tapestries, textiles, murals) and his collections (pre-Colombian ceramics, catholic religious artifacts, shells and fossils).
The most interesting part if of course the garden, with more than 3000 species of cultivated plants. It takes about an hour and a half to walk around the park. Plants and trees are of all size, colors and smells. It mixes native vegetation and the huge collection of indigenous tropical plants from Brazil. All plants have been planted to form an interesting landscape, with pounds, reflecting pools and artificial waterfalls.
Visit is by guided tour only (closed Sundays and Mondays, 35 people on each tour), and need to be previously scheduled (by phone) and costs 10 R$. It lies an hour drive from Rio center, about 40 km west, and is accessible by public transport.
Not wanting to venture far out of the city center by myself on public transport, I went in a guided tour from my hotel, reserving it on the internet. I was very lucky, because I ended up with a private tour, on a Sunday, with only three of us, being driven to the sitio, and having a biologist-guide to show us around (three people instead of a 35 people usual tour). Of course, this option is more expensive but I found it really worth its costs (btw the guided tour was on www.wowtour.com.br or by what'app +55 21 99135-1648).
I would recommend a visit to this very nice place, and I believe it has a good chance at inscription.
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