Rio de janeiro 2007 - 2008

For our second project, we returned to Vila Cruzeiro. When visiting friends, we noticed a fresh concrete structure with stairs in the middle: Rua Santa Helena. There had previously been a landslide, which took houses with it. A water runoff system ran below the concrete. We noticed it was a river of concrete and imagined how to paint a river on it as the water ran beneath it. A tattoo artist from Amsterdam, Rob Admiraal, is specialized in drawing fish and water and we decided to invite him. We designed a rough sketch and sent it to Rob, who usually designs his tattoos to fit the round and complex shapes of a human body. In this case, the surfaces were round but inflated. Rob started sketching the carp and the water on the concrete. After he left, the street was covered in dripping white lines, a rough sketch. To finalize the design, we kept exchanging photos and drawings with Rob through email.

Vitor, who worked on boy with kite  invited his friends Giovani and Robinho to come paint. They learned every step of the process from setting up the design, mixing paint, and technique to organizing salaries and materials.

A family on santa Helena offered space to store materials. Haas&Hahn became good friends with the family and eventually Dre ended up moving in with them. Elias, the owner of the house, cooked lunch for the crew. Vila Cruzeiro went through many phases during that period including mass invasions by police and the Brazilian army. The crew had to take shelter from massive shootouts almost on a daily basis.

The crew painted for 8 months. A deadline was set for finishing the painting by announcing an opening event to the press. Almost every news channel in Rio came to interview all of us: the founders, the crew and people living in Santa Helena. In October 2008, we organized an inauguration party. A day truce was negociated with the police and local autorities and no shots were heard that night.


Over the years the painting has suffered from the circumstances. Mostly sun, rain and children using it as a slide. We thought about a more durable solution and imagined the whole painting in mosaic. This remained a dream until  early 2017, when we started applying tiles with a group of women living on Santa Helena. This is part of a larger project, called ‘Santa Helena’, to also improve the houses around the painting.

Photos by: Douglas Engle, Brendan Mcgetrick, Ratao Diniz, Andrew Lenz, haas&hahn