Brazilian Modern at New York Botanical Garden

“Brazilian Modern,” was designed to display orchids in the spirit and tropical vibrancy of modern Brazil. Within a controlled environment, for a fixed duration of time, more than 8,000 orchids were theatrically displayed, dripping like candelabras, clinging to walls, and abounding with blooms. Vibrantly color-blocked living orchid walls, epiphytic orchid structures, and signature Roberto Burle Marx-inspired cubist planters were designed to embellish Brazilian Modern, using plants as art, in a museum of living things.

For Raymond, being a student and friend of the late, great Roberto Burle Marx, has given him a lifetime’s inspiration and insight into the design principles and details of the “Father of the Modern Garden.” This design applied his influence in an effort to achieve a uniquely Brazilian orchid exhibition, where color is displayed in great masses, the way it often occurs in nature, with plants chosen to emphasize their character.

With uncluttered space and clearly perceived dimensions, the greenhouse became enlarged by a repetition of black reflective water. Four grand-scale 6-foot diameter chandeliers were topped with Philodendron giganteum, selected for its enormous leaves and bold texture, beneath which fuchsia, purple and lavender orchids cascaded. The orchid cascade tapered-the strongest colors at the top, with the most vibrant large blooms, and the finest textured lightest values in color range beneath. An 8 x 17 foot mosaic mural of 1,325 painted ceramic tiles, was temporarily exhibited and suspended vertically above the reflecting pool.

A 12 inch wide by 8 foot high by 25 foot long panel, which is a common Burle Marx design element, featured a large recessed Staghorn fern rectangle. The balance of its surface was covered in over 600 white Phalaenopsis orchids. Tubular epiphytic plant sculptures with five to seven Alcantarea imperialis and silver Tillandsia orchids were perched at varying levels. Several Alcantarea spilled to the ground and across the gallery, as happens in nature. Cubist-inspired vertical planters 13 feet high billowed with Alcantarea imperialis and Alcantarea imperialis ‘rubra.’ Several reproductions of acrylic paintings, from Raymond’s personal collection, were displayed on stretched fabric, representing another dimension of what the artist’s creativity was able to produce.

This temporary garden showed the freedom, the boldness, and the clarity of contemporary Brazilian garden design, where plants are often massed together or set apart like treasured objects.

Completion: 2009
Location: New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York
Photography: Curtice Taylor and Talisman Brolin

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