In 1990, Chilean painter Jorge Selarón began replacing the crumbling steps outside his Rio apartment with bright blue, green and yellow tiles—the colors of his adopted Brazil. Over time, he would add tiles he found at flea markets, sometimes purchasing one at a time as he was often out of money. As the project grew, he’d sell his own paintings to fund what was becoming an iconic landmark in the Lapa neighborhood.
When the project neared its completion in 1998, he decided he didn’t want to finish. He began constantly replacing and updating tiles, eventually adding in his own painted tiles throughout the 215 steps. “This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death,” he said.
By the time he died in 2013, the project spanned more than 2,000 tiles, about 300 of which were hand painted by Seleron. On the weekends, the steps are filled with busking musicians, couples walking their length and groups of friends hanging out on the many side spots along the 125-meter stretch of the painter’s fantastical legacy.