Landscape architect Rosa Grena Kliass was born in São Roque, in the hinterland of the state of São Paulo, on October 15, 1932. Her father, José Alembick (1899–1973), was born in Stertzev (Szczerców), Poland, spoke Polish and Yiddish and, according to his daughter, became involved with the Bund in 1923, when he left his (Yiddish) Small-town Jewish community in Eastern Europe.shtetl soon after his first marriage, to Rivka Rotstein. The couple lived in Belchatow, where their three children were born—Maria (Gorski) in 1924, Masza (1924–1932) and Lejbus (b. 1928). José Alembick arrived in Brazil in 1930 and began to work as a clientelchik (door-to-door salesman). Meanwhile his wife fell seriously ill, was hospitalized and died in 1932. The three children were sent to Brazil, where Masza died upon arrival.
Rosa’s mother, José’s second wife, Sonia Alembick (née Groisman, 1900–1962), was from Beltz (Belz) in Bessarabia and arrived in Brazil in 1931, settling in São Roque, where her sister lived. Here the couple settled after marrying in 1932 and José Alembick began to manufacture furniture. Since there were few Jewish families in the town, the family spent the important religious festivals in Sorocaba, where the Jewish community had built a synagogue. Rosa went to primary school in São Roque, but in 1944 moved to São Paulo to continue her studies at the state secondary school. She lived in the district of Bom Retiro, where the majority of Jews in São Paulo lived until the 1950s. Rosa graduated in architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo. At that time, the course in Landscape Design was given only in the final year, by the American landscape designer Roberto Coelho Cardozo, who was well-known in São Paulo and through whom Rosa had contact with the California school of architecture, represented by Thomas Church, Garret Eckbo and Lawrence Halprin. While taking the course Kliass had a chance to spend some time in one of the best-known architects’ offices in São Paulo, that of Rino Levi, of Italian-Jewish origin, who had studied in the Preparatory School for Civil Architects in Milan from 1921 to 1923, graduating from the Higher School of Architecture in Rome in 1925. In Rino Levi’s office Rosa met the landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, a pioneer who believed in using Brazilian vegetation in landscape design and who also worked with architect Oscar Niemeyer.
In 1956 Rosa married the architect Wlademir Kliass (1929–1985), son of Professor José Kliass, an important figure in the musical life of São Paulo, a pupil of Martin Krause, who in turn had been one of the last pupils of Franz Liszt and had taught José Kliass’s close relative Yara Bernette, Anna Stella Schic (1925) and Kliass’s niece Estelinha Epstein (1914–1980). Rosa and Wlademir had two children, Paulo (b. 1958) and Sonia (b. 1964).
In 1969 Kliass received support from USAID to visit the main offices of landscape architecture in the United States, as well as schools of landscape design and departments of parks and recreation. She completed her M.A. in Urban Planning at the faculty of architecture of the University of São Paulo and established her office, Rosa Grena Kliass Landscape Planning and Projects Ltd., where she has developed important work in her field. The firm has elaborated a number of urban and institutional plans and projects throughout Brazil, such as plans for green areas in São Paulo, Curitiba and Salvador; the plan for the urban landscape of the city of São Luis do Maranhão; important landscape projects for avenues and squares in the center of São Paulo: Paulista Avenue; the redesigning of the Anhangabaú Valley (a project which won a national prize); and landscape projects for the international airports in Brasília and Belém, in the north of Brazil.
Rosa Kliass has also been landscape consultant for numerous governmental institutions such as the Department of Economics and Planning of the State of São Paulo; the Department of Water and Electrical Energy (DAEE); the Municipality of São José dos Campos, São Paulo State; and the Metropolitan Agency for Housing (COHAB), São Paulo. She has worked as Director of Planning for the São Paulo City Department of Planning (SEMPLA) and as a member of the Administration Council of CETESB (Environmental Sanitation and Technology Company).
In 1976 Kliass founded the Brazilian Association of Landscape Architects (ABAP). She was president of this organization at various periods in 1980, 1983, 1989, 1991 and 2000. As the ABAP delegate, she has also been closely connected with the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA). In 1978 she helped coordinate the sixteenth IFLA World Congress in Salvador, Bahia. She served as secretary of the Western Region (Americas) for one term of office and was vice-president for the Western Region from 2000 to 2002.
In 1981 Kliass participated in the organization of the First National Meeting of Landscape Architecture and in 1982 in the National Meeting of Landscape Professors, both held in Brazil. She has taught landscape architecture and urban design at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of Mackenzie University in São Paulo (1974–1977) and at the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Catholic University of Paraná, were she was in charge of the course in landscape architecture from 1980 to 1981 and coordinator of the course in specialization architecture in 1982. In 1981 she was responsible for the program of landscape specialization at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism Bras-Cubas, Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo State.
Costa, Lucia Maria Sá Antunes, and Maria Cecilia Barbieri Gorski, ed. Rosa Grena Kliass. O livro da Rosa. Vivências e paisagens, ed. São Paulo: Romano Guerra, 2019.
Zein, Ruth Verde. Rosa Kliass. Desenhando paisagens, moldando uma profissão. São Paulo: Editora SENAC, 2006
Barbosa, Antonio Agenor, Rachel Paterman, and Stella Rodrigues. “Entrevista com a arquiteta paisagista Rosa Kliass.” Vitruvius, Vol. 16, Augut 2015.
How to cite this page
Falbel, Anat and Nachman Falbel. "Rosa Grena Kliass." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 11, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/kliass-rosa-grena>.