Favelas ring Rio de Janeiro’s hillsides, and many of their residents still experience clashes between police and the gangs that control the neighborhoods. In 2007, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, of the Dutch partnership Haas&Hahn, created the Favela Painting Project to bring art and beauty to the built environment. Following in the footsteps of previous favela painting projects undertaken by others, including Brazilian designers Ruy Ohtake and Maria Emilia Ollandezos, Haas&Hahn were successful in driving international media attention to the need for improvements. In 2010, they employed local youth to paint murals over 7,000 square meters (75,000 sq. ft.) of the public square, thirty-four surrounding houses, streets, and the interior of a popular samba studio in the Santa Marta settlement. The design for Praça Cantão uses a flexible concept of colorful rays, which can easily be expanded further throughout the favela. Trainers from TintasCoral paint company, as part of their “Tudo de cor para Santa Marta” community project, instructed twenty-five local youth on proper safety and painting methods.
The Favela Painting Project was covered by news agencies around the world, including CNN, Fox News, and Al Jazeera. In Brazil, the paintings attracted reporters from every major newspaper and television station. With broad applications, the project’s work is spreading to other countries. The team is planning a project in Philadelphia.
Artists: Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, Haas&Hahn, with Santa Marta favela community youth. Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2009–10