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Decision 44 COM 8B.27
Sítio Roberto Burle Marx (Brazil)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil, on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, located in the west zone of the City of Rio de Janeiro, comprises extensive landscape gardens and buildings set between mangroves and native Atlantic forest in a mountainous area of the district of Barra de Guaratiba.

    The property was a ‘landscape laboratory’ for landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994). Over a period of more than forty years, he experimented with fusing artistic Modernist ideas and native tropical plants to create garden designs as living works of art.

    Burle Marx introduced the aesthetics of painting to landscape design. Drawing inspiration from the key founders of the Modern Art movement, he created abstract paintings that included modernist images based on abstractions of Portuguese/ Brazilian folk culture, and used these as a basis of garden designs in which plants became components of three dimensional living works of art. Burle Marx popularised the use of native tropical plants, many of which he collected and cultivated.

    The Sítio is thus important as a physical manifestation of Burle Marx’s approaches, his principles and his plants, as well as for the way it allows an understanding of the key design characteristics that he used again and again in his designs such as sinuous forms, exuberant mass planting, architectural arrangements of plants, dramatic colour contrasts, a focus on tropical plants, and the incorporation of elements of traditional Portuguese-Brazilian folk culture.

    The Sítio is a remarkable survival as a landscape laboratory that illuminates the way one of the great landscape designers of the 20th century evolved his influential designs. That led to the development of what became known as the Modern tropical garden, an important expression of the Modern Movement in the field of landscape design and one that has largely influenced the shaping of parks and gardens since the mid-20th century in Brazil and throughout the world.

    Criterion (ii): Sítio Roberto Burle Marx demonstrates an important interchange of ideas on landscape design related to the importation of ideas of the Modernist art movement from Europe, their shaping and adaptation through experimentation to a landscape form based on the use of native tropical flora, and their use in a huge number of parks and gardens around the world, which together have had a profound impact on the development of what is now known as Modernist Tropical garden design.

    Criterion (iv): Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is an outstanding example of a landscape that demonstrates the development of a new type of landscape design that fused creative ideas of the Modern art movement with local typologies and tropical plants to create a style that ultimately became known as the modern tropical garden.


    The property contains all the attributes that are central to the Outstanding Universal Value. The boundaries enclose all the land acquired by Roberto Burle Marx for his landscaping activities, and the property is of an adequate size.

    Although none of the attributes are under threat, they are vulnerable to incremental change in the absence of Conservation Plan, based on clear documentation of the property and on a detailed delineation of the attributes.


    The authenticity of the property is related to its form, design, and materials, including living plant materials, the interaction between all of these to create artistic works, and the ideas that they convey.

    The documentation related to the attributes needs to be greatly improved to guide conservation to ensure there is no gradual erosion over time.

    The historical role the property had as a laboratory for the development of design ideas has ended and it is therefore essential that there is a clearer understanding of full scope of the attributes and how they will be sustained.

    Protection and management requirements

    The property is legally protected at all available levels. At the national level it is protected by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN). At the state level it has protection under the State Institute of Cultural Heritage (INEPAC). At the local level the property and buffer zone are integrated into the Rio de Janeiro State Conservation Strategy. These protective measures will be supplemented by a municipal law on urban development, and regulations to address urban pressure around the property.

    There are effective management structures and processes in place for the property and buffer zone at the three levels of government, with offices and personnel experienced with heritage properties and urban planning.

    A proposed new management plan will update and improve the existing Strategic Plan (2012-2018), which is operationalised through annual Action Plans. The new plan, scheduled for completion in 2020, is intended to embody World Heritage principles and concepts.

    It is proposed to create a management committee involving IPHAN (National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage) and a range of relevant institutions for the property and buffer zone, including those from the non-governmental sector, civil society and external experts.

    The property is adequately resourced, including with appropriate staff.

    To address the vulnerability of the attributes to incremental change over time, there is a need to develop a Conservation Plan.

  4. Recommends that the State Party, with the advice of ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre, if requested, give urgent consideration to the following:
    1. Delineating in detail, through a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach, the attributes of the property and their degree of intactness on the basis of an analysis of:
      1. Maps, surveys and illustrative materials relating to the property at the time of Burle Marx’s death,
      2. Maps, surveys and photographic documentation of the property at the present time,
      3. Research and analysis of archives and art collections,
    2. On the basis of completed definition of attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, producing a Conservation Plan for the designed landscapes of the property,
    3. Strengthening the Management Plan to reflect the defined attributes and to ensure that the cultural design aspects of the garden are taken into consideration in the management of the property,
    4. Strengthening risk preparedness within the property, and in the setting of the property, especially in relation to fire prevention,
    5. Strengthening protection for the buffer zone and the immediate setting of the property to control urban development pressures and to ensure protection of views from the property into the surrounding landscape,
    6. Ensuring that Heritage Impact Assessments are undertaken for any proposals that might have the potential to impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and submit these to the World Heritage Centre for review in line with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2023, a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.
    Decision Code
    44 COM 8B.27
    Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
    States Parties 1
    Decisions adopted at the 44th extended session of the World Heritage Committee
    Context of Decision