Living in Paradise, or having one around, is a universal desire. And from how many shapes, colors, smells, fashions and beliefs, was 20th century Eden created?
10s Belle Époque: São Paulo lived the belle époque. France was present in the daily life of the São Paulo bourgeoisie. French was spoken with ease and the accent was in everything: food, building material, architecture, fashion, vegetation and even urban aesthetics. In 1911, Mayor Raymundo Duprat asked architect Bouvard, then honorary director of architecture and plans in Paris, for suggestions for "improvements" to be implemented in downtown São Paulo, while Law Olmsted was designing Central Park in New York. Bouvard suggested the construction of two large parks: Parque do Anhangabaú and Parque D. Pedro II, introducing the bold design of an English garden, skillfully integrated into the natural landscape of the central area of the city. In Rio de Janeiro, three years earlier, Pereira Passos proposed a great plan to “beautify” the city: opening of Avenida Central, today Rio Branco, Avenida Beira Mar, Botafogo Regatas Club, lakes, viewpoints and fountains, always inspired in French patterns of more orthodox designs, perhaps to counter irreverent tropical vegetation. São Paulo, without this commitment, for not enjoying so much intimacy with nature, loosened the curves a little in the layout and mixed, with freedom, palms, guaimbês (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), quaresmeira (T. granulosa') and cassias with Platanus, conifers, rosebushes, many rosebushes and Buxus sempervirens. The residential gardens, which stretched on Av. Paulista and Higienópolis, unlike the public ones, were better behaved in their formal beds, but always mixing native and exotic plants.
20s Week of 22 on Avenida Paulista: In the 1920s, the well-kept gardens in São Paulo shared white magnolias with camellias and manacás (Brunfelsia uniflora), the floor lined with ivy and the borders of fragrant violets, which often ended up in the lapels of well with life men. Hedges on the facades and, the pergolas and terraces covered with jasmines or wisteria sometimes some begonia, maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and tinhorão (Caladium bicolor) vases. Jabuticaba trees (Plinia cauliflora), almost always present, were a heritage that was carried with when moving to a new house. Palm trees reigned absolute inside the house, in generous halls and winter gardens.
São Paulo, a beautiful city: Bouvard's project, consolidated in the 1930s, gives São Paulo its moment of greatest aesthetic perfection. Gregori Warchavchik inaugurates the first Modernist House, with gardens by Nina, his wife, who, against the current style, used dracenas, agaves, yuccas and cactus, which projected their sculptural contours on the straight and white walls. At that time, Agache made the gardens of Praça Paris in Rio, with almond trees, ficus retusa, and topiaries, while Burle Marx began to introduce his avant-garde ideas, proposing the use of native vegetation, in a still timid, almost naive trait, presenting to the world the “Brazilian garden”.
Flowers and Hollywood: The war leaves the gardens as they are, with the conservative taste living side by side with the eccentricity of new ideas. Azaleas begin to color Jardim Europa every winter fucsia, and hydrangeas tinted the summers blue. The gladioli, the great novelty, in new colors, adorned weddings. Girlfriends were gifted Lathyrus odoratus in boxes lined with flowered paper and, to top it off, orchids, so rare and special, that would make any woman feel Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Automobiles in the post-war period: The 1950s inaugurates the myth “São Paulo Can’t Stop”, which authorizes the beginning of the city's destruction process. The two beautiful parks in the Center give rise to the Avenidas Plan, by Prestes Maia, and the city is still looking for its identity on the street bed, in a complete abandonment of public spaces. The celebration of the IV Centenary gives us Ibirapuera Park, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and vegetation by Manoel Teixeira Mendes, which remains our best and most used leisure area. The houses have an internal garden with philodendrons, dracena and rubber trees in the living room vases, and the external spaces begin to receive influences from American landscapers, such as Garrett Eckbo and Thomas Church, with amoeba-shaped pools, stone slabs with grass joints and barbecue grills.
Brasília and Tropicália: The New Bahians curl our hair in the ferns hanging from chains, in moments of awkwardness on the poufs. Lucio Costa takes the monumental axis that Le Nôtre extended in Versailles, to the Central Plateau, and Burle Marx exhibits his brilliant modernity in the beautiful gardens of the ministries, in a new and surprising design.
Calçadão and Cachepô: The waves of Copacabana's promenade inaugurate the 70's, and São Paulo's sidewalks begin to receive the mistake of concrete vases with semi-dead plants, in an attempt to “humanize” the city. The architects propose the plant cocktails, the planters in the windows and gardens even under the stairs.
Ecology: Plants definitely entered houses in the 1980s, in the form of trees invading living rooms, apartment terraces, bathrooms and kitchen windows. It is the time for ficus, sheffleras, trees of happiness (Polyscias fruticosa) and many vases on the shelves. Large and small stones with cycas and thujas-alligator inaugurate the taste for the Japanese garden. Ecological movements are solidifying, and gardens are definitely in fashion.
Trends and essences: Nature is run over in the 90s in the desperate search for ephemeral trends, reinforced by the amateurism that all new material adds. Tropícal garden, oriental garden, "clean" garden, herb garden, sculptural plants, Giverny, boxwood, Phoenix, pandanus and bamboo invading restaurants and rooms, profuse bromeliads, cacti and even banana trees; taking on the tropics is also worth it! There is no time for a garden to grow with so many quick movements. A walk through Aterro do Flamengo, which took 30 years to bloom its mature exuberance, and each season of the year presents us with new flowers, gives us the path to the next millennium, a return to the essence, the minimum and the substantial. Nature is above fads. The Garden of Eden is timeless.
La primavera o el Paraíso terrenal, by Nicolas Poussin
oil on canvas, c.1660/1664 Paris, Louvre
by Isabel Duprat