Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

by Isabel Duprat

It is fascinating how some projects start with a purpose and take on their own dynamics as they develop and become more and more exciting. It happened with this garden made for a house designed by Oscar Niemeyer, seated in the forms of a hillside in the Botanical Garden, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The house, built in 1969 for his sister-in-law, Carmen Baldo, occupied almost the entirety of the property of about 750 m² and needed. In addition to a project of architectural restoration and readjustment, the property was in need of a landscaping project that would bring light and freshness to the life of the new family who would live there. 

At this stage, it was up to me to bring back the green exuberance of the internal garden, existing under a concrete pergola, the central part of the house, which would be replaced by a garden on a slab. The garden of the rooms, which would have access to the outside area, would now be on the slab of the garage. In addition, the landscaping would have to contemplate the external areas and the gardens next to the annexed area, up there on the hill, and the pedestrian circulation paths throughout the area, invariably with many steps to overcome. 

Having known the house before the work was started was essential to understand the full and the empty, the inside and the outside. These were creations of Niemeyer, and the sensations I would have to deal with.​

With the work in progress, the unexpected and welcome purchase of the adjacent plot of land, of equal size, significantly expanded the possibilities of enjoying a large garden overlooking the stone wall of the surrounding slopes and the Corcovado. What a bless! 

I made several studies exhausting the possibilities of a better path to take in the face of the trump card we now had in hand, keeping Niemeyer's architecture preserved in its scale and simplicity. 

This new attached land, with the same dimensions as the previous one, had been occupied in an almost incomprehensible and aggressive manner, with innumerable levels of floors, intricate spaces and so tight,with so much concrete. I tried to abstract these confused excesses and understand the original land totally ignored while the difficult demolition took place, I imagined a great void taking into account the reference quotas of all limits and how they would connect. 

The entire process of the project for the first plot would now have to be partly rethought and understood by everyone involved and decisions already assimilated would have to be revoked and replaced in order to fully incorporate the new area. It is a moment of mixed feelings in which everything was already very good, and what comes afterwards may be even better, but it will require going through a process of coming and going, and new and complex works, and a temptation to put many things in this place.  

Today, at a distance from those days, I see with joy what has been accomplished and how the spaces and gardens created since then have been so alive and at the same time so aligned with the original architecture. 

Several pool positions and connections to the house were evaluated. The chosen path was to locate the pool in the lowest part of the land so that one could enjoy the beautiful view offered there. At the level of the social area of the house, a large square was created which, throughout the execution of the project, instead of having a guardrail bench like the one of the original house, was framed by the beautiful birds perched on the large L-shaped bench by Adriana Varejão, setting up a wide open space for many uses, a vegetable garden, children's playing or just being around. A large terrace was created under this square, a space for a gourmet area designed by the architect Lia Siqueira, who participated in the project to revitalize Niemeyer's house. 

The soapstone for the internal floors and terraces, chosen by the client, a well-known stone, crafted by an artisan from Mariana, Minas Gerais, extended to the outside areas, spreading white and streaked lines over a perfect gray through the garden, and became essential in the entire language of the project. 

I made the soapstone floors of the paths enter the pool and the water at the edge level gave the stone a turquoise tone, whose freshness is inebriating. To blend the pool with the garden, I took a step back from the high wall that emerged after the demolition asking to disappear, and made the vegetation lick the water, gaining enough space to allow a direct circulation to the annex from the entrance of the house. 

Access to the house had now gained a new possibility, that of being softer and receiving larger levels to overcome the great gap.

In the place that would have previously received a small pool, at the highest point of the land, I created a gazebo terrace from which you can see Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. A blessed land, where so many beauties can be seen from one place alone. 

Trees, palms and shrubs covered the 8 meter wide perimeter that emerged with the demolition on the border. They closed off both the pool and the level of the square. Encouraged by the client, many flowers were mixed to present each season with a splash of colors. 


Intervention area 1200 m²

Project and execution 2014 - 2017

The New York Times Style Magazine, August 2018