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A Backyard to Entertain Friends, Brazilian Style
Landscape Architecture by marcelonovaes, Parque da Hípica, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

Editor Steve Kelly

The planter at this custom home in São Paulo, runs the entire length of the pool and is bordered by a wood trellis that doubles as a privacy wall. African irises are the main planting. The foreground (red flowers) is Ixora macrothyrsa; Pandorea jasminoides is climbing the trellis; Ptychosperma macarthurii palms are straight back.

This residential project shows how it is possible to create in a relatively small area a beautiful garden with all the necessary elements to perfectly use the best that nature has to offer.

The home is in Campinas, Brazil, a municipality in the southeast region of the state of São Paulo. Campinas (pop. 1,080,999) is 52 miles north northwest of São Paulo, Brazil's capital city, and about 247 miles west of Brazil's iconic beach city, Rio de Janeiro. Campinas, as you note, is not some backwater. In 2010, Campinas gained official metropolitan status (RMC - Região Metropolitana de Campinas). The RMC includes 20 municipalities with an aggregate population of 2,976,433.


The swimming pool interior is faced with 2.5 x 2.5cm ceramic tile. The pool deck hardscape is white Portuguese mosaic and São Tomé white quartzite (1 x 0.50m). The wooden bench along the pool's linear edge was by designer Monica Cintra, who uses "raw wood discarded by nature" or leftovers from management areas certified by IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural and Renewable Resources). Note the substantial crack running most of the length of the bench abutting the pool. The wood deck and trellis (left) are other natural material elements. Carpentaria acuminate plams flank a Jabuticaba tree (Myrciaria cauliflora), offering some verticality to the linear design. A slightly different angle of the same area at dusk reveals the sauna/solarium and some attractive lighting effects. Pleomele reflexa, aka 'Song of India' is uplit against the house façade below the two small windows.

The city is home to the University of Campinas (40,000 plus enrollment), one of South America's most prestigious public universities. Campinas ("grass fields" in Portuguese) was originally a landscape of thick subtropical forests (mato grosso) with numerous rivers and rolling hills of low-lying vegetation. Sadly, most of the pristine Campinas landscape is gone. One estimate puts the vegetation cover today at only five percent. The loss of vegetation has rendered the area susceptible to flooding and silt buildup.

The city dates back to 1774 and thrived with the growing of coffee, cotton and sugarcane. The construction of railways spurred the area's growth and attracted large contingents of Italian immigrants in the second half of the 19th century.

Campinas is the "wealthiest" city in the RMC, accountings for about 10 percent of Brazil's industrial production. Petrochemicals, metallurgy, auto industry and high tech dominate. However, the average per capita income is only $17,700 (U.S. dollars) per year.


A graveled pathway bisects the lawn to create a quiet, contemporary garden space allowing the owners to sit in the shade of the jabuticaba tree (Myrciaria cauliflora), meditate to the sounds of birds, admire the topiary boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens), the colorful red blossoms of the Ixora macrothyrsa, (a tropical plant in the Rubiaceae family), and the red fountain grass growing against the wooden wall.

Landscape Architecture in Brazil
Landscape architects worldwide know the name Roberto Burle Marx (1909 -1994). Marx was born in São Paulo, but his family moved to Rio de Janeiro when he was a child.

He studied painting in Germany, but returned to Brazil to study visual arts at the National School of Fine Arts in Rio in 1930. There, he focused on visual arts and associated with architects and botanists; both professions influenced his professional life.

Marx founded his landscape studio and landscape company in 1955, and opened an office in Caracas, Venezuela in 1956, where he began working with architects Jose Tabacow and Haruyoshi Ono.

Marx is credited with introducing modernist landscape architecture to Brazil, designing parks and gardens that made him renown. His commissions in South America were primarily in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, but he also worked in France, South Africa, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.


The deck connects a gourmet kitchen to the garden and offers a general view of the leisure area. The planter jutting into the pool sports 'Dwarf Chenille' aka 'Firetail' (Acalypha reptans) and purple flowering Bamboo orchids (Arundina graminifolia). The red flowering plant on the deck is New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri hybrid). Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) is in the foreground.

Marx was a Renaissance man: a painter; ecologist (an early advocate for conservation of Brazil's rainforests --more than 50 plants bear his name); a naturalists (collected more than 500 philodendrons at his estate in Barra de Guaratiba on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro), an artist and musician.

Today, there are a number of notable, innovative landscape architects in São Paulo: Gilberto Elkis is a trendsetting landscape architect known for designing creative outdoor-living environments; Rosa Kliass established Rosa Grena Kliass Landscape Planning and Projects Ltd., and founder the Brazilian Association of Landscape Architects in 1976; Alex Hanazaki, a grandson of Japanese immigrants, is one of the "young lions" of Brazilian landscape architecture who came onto the scene in 1998 with his theatrical outdoor room designs; and Isabel Duprat, who as a young architect worked with Roberto Burle Marx to collect and study Brazil's indigenous flora. Over the past 25 years she has taken a naturalistic approach to landscape architecture that "adapts to the unique needs of a particular space." She restored Marx's garden at the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro into a park that is the centerpiece of the São Paulo's BankBoston Building landscape.


Liriope muscari 'Variegata'and Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) decorate the planter in the foreground adjacent to the white quartzite hardscape. The red flowering shrubs on either side of the bench are New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri hybrid). Red fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Purpureum') is growing to the height of the wall (straight back).

According to Silvia Tavares, a Brazilian architect and "urbanist," landscape architecture as an undergraduate degree doesn't exist in Brazil. "Landscape architecture is usually the subject of two or three courses, covered in two or three semesters. We do not have a chance of covering many aspects of landscape, such as planting, ecology and biodiversity. Our options are to study five years of architecture and urban design (including even calculations of concrete structures) and then add a couple more years to specialize in landscape, or work with professionals from other areas such as ecology, agronomy and forestry. This can be an unrealistic career path in many cases, especially when the budget for professional contracts is limited, which results in aspects of the landscape being compromised."

Tavares adds: "Luckily, landscape in Brazil has been evolving and shifting from a purely architectural profession to a broader, more environment-based one. It is now recognized that the role of [landscape architects] is much larger than the artsy sketches and gardens they produce."


The balcony overlooking the pool has overlapping wooden decking and Corten steel planters: Mexican snowballs (Echeveria elegans) on the ground plane and Elephant's foot (Beaucarnea recurvate) in the raised planter. The planters (left) feature topiary boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens), with African iris in the planters closest to the home.

Marcelo Novaes
Marcelo Novaes, the landscape architect who designed this featured custom residential home landscape, began working at his family's nursery while attending the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas in 1975. At the nursery he created and executed his first landscape projects, and became responsible for the designs and executions of all the gardens from the nursery for over 20 years. Since graduating from the university in 1980, he has been a member of the ABAP (Brazilian Association of Landscape Architects)

In 1999, Marcelo Novaes opened his landscape architecture firm, Marcelo Novaes Paisagismo In conjunction with the firm he operates a nursery, Viveiro Novaes Plantas e Jardins. This logical coupling has helped him develop landscapes across the country.


The residents can access the sauna/solarium in the typical manner (via a door) or from the pool via an underwater passage. A bed of bamboo orchids (Arundina graminifolia) separates the access stairway from the lap pool.

The concept for the project pictured in this feature, explains Marcelo Novaes, stemmed from the fact that the home owner, a young entrepreneur in the entertainment business, intended to have a place where he could receive his friends. The perfect integration between the architectural spaces and the garden was underscored so that each area could function independently. The swimming pool, for instance, is located at one of the ends of the property, and a crafty wooden trellis serves as a frame for the plot boundary. It's a lap pool, with a sauna along side.

"Moments for relaxation can be enjoyed at the solarium, equipped with beautiful and comfortable chaise longues, or at the contemplation area under the shade of a jabuticaba tree, where one can also gaze at the hummingbirds that are lured there by the garden's ixora flowers," details Novaes.

The terrace adjoining the master bedroom on the upper floor has panoramic view of the horizon. The terrace has become an exclusive retreat for the homeowners, ideal for a quiet breakfast, or just to contemplate the view. The diversified use of architectural elements, graveled pathways, overlapping decks and Corten steel planters, bring a touch of originality to the ambience.

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May 26, 2019, 3:18 pm PDT

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