Isabel Duprat is a Brazilian landscape architect, who founded her studio in São Paulo forty years ago. Along with her staff, she has developed numerous projects from conception to execution in an effort to identify the native assets of each site and enhance those potentials in the creation of pleasant spaces.
Her name figures in Kristina Taylor’s publication “Women Garden Designers – 1900 to the Present” (Garden Art Press, 2015), a book that gathers 31 of the most influential women garden designers around the world.
Among her studio’s many projects are: The Albert Einstein Learning and Research Center, The Bank Boston corporate building; Complexo Cultural Luz, developed along with Herzog & de Meuron Architects; the gardens of Shopping Center Iguatemi JK; Rede Globo headquarters and the headquarters of Santander Bank, all in São Paulo. Outside São Paulo, the Caledonian Somosaguas, Valcotos in Madrid, the public plaza of the World Trade Center in Montevideo and a large number of residences, beach houses and farms spread throughout many places in Brazil as well as overseas
To observe nature and try to understand her numerous forms, movement and nuances, the imponderable and the mystery surrounding her is the endless source of my inspiration.
The manner in which, along history, different cultures brought nature to their day by day and interpreted her in such diverse ways is a fascinating learning process.
Nature in its pure state often toasts us with magical moments when we experience the view of immense beauty. To live this emotion in a garden is indeed rare. It is only occasionally that it happens, and when it does, it is a gift. It was what I felt when I visited the Imperial Villa of Katsura in Kyoto, at the peak of autumn. Strolling among its paced meanders, at a slow or high rhythm, syncopated, paused, following curved or straight, and at all times we are grasped by the vegetation, water, and stones lain carefully in harmony with elaborate simplicity.
As a country of continental proportions, Brazil provides you with countless experiences with vegetation in view of the diversity of its biomes and yet it does not prepare you for work in the Northern Hemisphere. Vegetation growth occurs at a slower pace and the effect of the annual seasons upon them is noticeably severe; there, another pictorial palette of vegetation takes hold, there are new fragrances and perfumes, and above all there is the look of a unique culture that reflects its relations with nature and its perceptions of gardening aesthetics.
Strides in Madrid around its parks, plazas and through the Botanical Garden gave her the opportunity to delve into the native vegetation and into species that are so well adapted to this specific place learning how they behaved throughout the marked seasons of the year, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Added to this were many visits to nurseries whose care takers´ patience and good will allowed her to deepen the delicate comprehension of the whole. The perception she has, gleaned by experience, of what a good place is, her understanding of the aspects of nature, the use of vegetation, and the way she aesthetically compose all overlapping elements, all the while maintaining an identity that ultimately reflects the particularities of how she works within her comprehension of nature, is the challenge and reason to be called upon to develop a project overseas.
Designing a landscape project for a gated community in the outskirts of Madrid was an adventure to which she gave herself with great enthusiasm.
The fact that the transit of cars is entirely underground, freeing all common areas for pedestrians, gave us the opportunity to treat all the external areas as one garden. As a tradeoff, this situation came with the limitation that the greater part of the garden was to be over slabs with not much depth for soil except for some areas set aside for trees that would be planted in natural ground, also we had a great variation of sunlight that reached each corner of the garden.
Access to the houses was conceived as widening and narrowing patios and passages that give rise to spaces with singular characteristics that we experience as we walk along. The landscaping project proposes to create an identity through the vegetation selected for each ambience.
She projected the swimming pool in friendly proportions for use by the residents simultaneously, whether it be for wading at its steps or enjoying it in full. The vicinity of the pool is itself a patio that will become more sheltered as the buxus grow.
The evergreen Quercus ilex dot the various patios and the pool area that is outlined by two opposite planes: on one side lies the structured patterns of the Magnolia grandiflora, and on the opposing side the lightness and bright green of pear trees (Pyrus calleryana). Groups of magnolia shrubs (Magnolia sellowiana) enhance the open areas of the garden. The entrance to the development is lined with trees called Zelkova serrata and Lagerstroemia indica that spread onto the private gardens of the houses linking them in their flowering season.
The Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro along with the beautiful views of the Barra beach and rocky ridges are the protagonists of this project.
There were two constructions on the site: one was preserved to become the guest house and the other gave room to a new Tom Kundig project.
The landscaping project would have to blend in with the strong features of its natural surroundings as well as to provide unity to the compound built in 2 distinct architectural languages. One of the greatest enigmas in landscaping is to deal with these variables in a delicate way.
She did not want both houses to be within view at the same time. She thus allowed the woods into the space between the houses by planting native trees like Lecythis pisonis, Jacaranda caroba, Pterocarpus violaceus, Paubrasilia echinata, and Handroanthus impetiginosus. The species would mimetize in the existing vegetation and provide privacy.
In order to welcome the new house, that was carefully placed so as to valorize the view of the natural landscape, she designed a calm garden. She conceived smooth curves of grasses of different colors that would spread across to the opposite side of the driveway, preserving a spacious lawn marked by a monumental Libidibia ferrea. She is of the opinion that if there is to be a lawn it should have adequate proportions in relation to the site. Deciding on where to place the pool, planned for swimming, followed much thought in view of the intricate and differing levels where the previous pool had been. There, a large area existed, one that could be developed but not in the configuration it found itself. Taming the entirety of that area and integrating it for daily use was no trivial matter. It was one of the challenges in this project.
She thus extended the pool to the thresholds of the lawn, marking the line of the horizon with the ocean, unveiling both of them to the two houses.
The previous levels were much altered in order to make circulation more pleasant, the spaces more useful and more physically and visually integrated. 1.5m high walls hold the pool deck and the small garden patios that are accessed by smooth steps settled between concrete retentions. She elected concrete as the material to be used in the outer walls of the pool as well as for the retaining walls so as to bring some reference to Kundig´s architecture to this area of the garden that was farther away from the main house, but from where it was visible. The steps, deck and walkways were lain in basalt that blends in very well into concrete. Trees, flowering shrubs, grasses, philodendrons, alocasias, pandanus, and norantea began to spread here and there helping to visually dilute the differences in heights.
Upon her first visit to the lot she was certain that it would be a sand garden. Plenty of sand meandering through low beds in patches of colors, as a giant mosaic, masses of light and shade intertwined like waves that allow a glimpse of the sea. The house was positioned in such a way to preserve the handsome trees that would grow through and coexist with the sprawling pergola facing the beach on the eastern side, one of the most beautiful of the shorelines in the state of Bahia. The opposite side of the pergola would run along the local road close to the cliffs.
Ninety trees were planted before construction began, at a time when machinery could still be moved onto the lot. Among the trees were large screening species like the mango tree, fruit bread, Samanea tubulosa, Dalbergia nigra, Paubrasilia echinata, Chloroleucon tortum, Chrysophyllum cainito, Pachira aquatica, Eugenia leitonii, Hibiscus tiliaceus, and Clusia grandiflora, yielding fruits and flowers throughout the garden and offering shade where shade is welcome. She felt free to make use of the intense, graphic luminous shifts of such plants, displayed among the native sandbank vegetation such as the numerous small palms called uricuris (Syagrus coronata) and caxandós (Allagoptera arenaria) whose resilience to the sun and the elements make their existence possible.
Along the borderlines alpinias, heliconias, Etlingera elatior, and Megaskepasma erythrochlamys offer their lush tropical flowers amid clusters of fruit bearing shrubs, among which are Coccoloba uvifera and pomegranates and native berry trees such as the Eugenia uniflora, Eugenia brasiliensis and Myrciaria glazioviana. For the walkways and the areas surrounding the pool I elected beige sandstone that would mimic the color and texture of natural sand. The sandstone slabs were also applied lain in thick steps leading to the house.