Vila Cruzeiro, Rio de Janeiro 2008
Design: Rob Admiraal

“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 participate. 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. We became close 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 challenges during that period, including invasions by police and the Brazilian army. The crew had to take shelter from massive shootouts almost on a daily basis. Nevertheless, all of us kept working.” 

“The crew painted for eight 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 the people living in Santa Helena. On October XX, we organized an inauguration party. A day truce was negotiated with the police and local authorities, no shots were heard that night.” 

Photos by: Douglas Engle, Brendan Mcgetrick, Ratao Diniz, Andrew Lenz, Jeroen Koolhaas, Dre Urhahn