SANTA HELENA PROJECT

Rio de Janeiro 2017-2018


Rua Santa Helena is a street in Vila Cruzeiro, one of the many favelas in Rio de janeiro. In 2008 Haas&Hahn completed a giant painting of Koi carp swimming upstream on this street and named the project Rio Cruzeiro. After almost a decade since its realisation, time has taken its toll on the painting. On some parts, the paint has almost completely faded due to sunlight, rainfall and playing children, who use the steep hillsides to play slide.


It became obvious that the artwork needed some serious restoration. To repaint it however - would only recreate the same problem in the future. Together with the community, it was decided to use a more sustainable solution and recreate the entire painting as a gigantic mosaic. A crew of local women is being trained in the technique of mosaics and have started the immense task of recreating the faded artwork.


The brick houses alongside the artwork on Rua Santa Helena are also receiving a transformation. Starting from the street level entrance of Rua Santa Helena reaching all the way to the top of the hill.
A combination of pigmented lime stucco and contrasting tiles creates a sustainable, long lasting layer. The playful design follows the existing architecture while creating an enveloping effect, visually connecting all the houses together. The owners of the houses get to pick the colors they like for their house.


Favela Painting assembled a crew of local masons. They were instructed by a Brazilian architect specialized in restauration and the process of preparing and applying lime stucco. The crew delivers high quality craftsmanship with eye for every detail. 
Neighborhood youth, contracted as apprentices, are trained by the more experienced crewmembers. Other locals are trained in general production to organize and run the project in a flexible and autonomous fashion. Close contact with the Favela Painting HQ in the Netherlands is kept for designs and logistics. One of the neighbors cooks lunch for the whole crew every day.

Ironically Favela Painting is not using paint for the Santa Helena Project. Favela Painting realised that they had to start using materials that would last longer and that are less harmful for the environment. Together with local experts and architects they developed a new workflow, using pigmented lime stucco and tiles. These materials are common and locally available. Not only will the new exteriors of the houses last much longer, the homes themselves were improved beforehand. Unfinished walls were finished and messy electricity lines were cleaned up.
Producing lime is much cleaner than regular cement and most of the CO2 released during the manufacturing process of lime is re-absorbed during the lifetime of the lime stucco. It is therefore close to carbon neutral. It is permeable, flexible and workable. Ideal for the weather conditions in Rio de Janeiro. 



Santa Helena is an ongoing project and Favela Painting is continuously looking for partnerships and funding to complete the entire mosaic and all the houses around it.