Celebrating the artist behind Copacabana’s patterned pavements

A new book and exhibition from Place Press celebrates the pioneering work of Roberto Burle Marx – the landscape architect and artist who transformed Rio’s Copacabana district – and explores how creative thinking can transform our relationship with urban spaces

“Pavements don’t have to be interesting – they’re a functional piece of the city. But Burle Marx turned them into a work of art.”

Elli Stuhler is the Managing Editor of Place Press and author of Roberto’s Rio, a new book on landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The “work of art” she refers to is his most famous commission: the 4.5km stretch of pavement opposite Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach.

In 1970, Burle Marx & Cia was commissioned to transform the beach front as part of a larger project to widen the sidewalks and protect its hotels and apartments from the tide.

Burle Marx divided the area into three horizontal planes: the strip of pavement nearest the shore had a wave pattern while the two running parallel featured an assortment of organic and angular shapes in red, black and white. Rows of Brazilian trees were planted to provide respite from the sun while benches offered a space to relax and socialise.