This is Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón, the man responsible for putting Escadaria Selaron, also known as the ‘Selaron Steps’, on the travellers’ map and made it one of the must-see places in Brazil. He traveled, lived and worked as a painter and sculptor in over 50 countries around the world before arriving and deciding to settle in Rio de Janeiro in 1983.
Jorge Selaron started putting his artistic skills, sweat and blood into beautifying 250 dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his abode since 1990. It was an uphill task and only his obsession and passion drove him unrelentlessly to cover steps with multi-coloured tiles, ceramics and mirrors.
Jorge Selaron was mocked and critizied not only for his crazy obsession but also the choice of the colour of the tiles. He wanted this steps to be a tribute to the Brazilian people and the tiles were in fragments of blue, green and yellow representing the colours of the Brazilian flag. Originally, tiles for the work were scavenged from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the Rio streets. He also collected old porcelain bathtubs to use as planters along the side. In later years, his creative work was appreciated and friends and collaborators from around the world sent or took tiles to contribute to the steps’ facade.
As I looked closely at the broken tiles so creatively fitted on the steps and the beautiful paintings on each complete tile, I realized the degree of his resoluteness, passion and love for this work is unmatched and this man, Jorge Selaron is indeed a legend.
It really boggled my mind and set me thinking regarding the magnitude of commitment towards this project. How long did it take Jorge Selaron to even finish one part of the wall or a step? Where did he get the inspiration for him to come up with some many intricate designs?
If you happened to come from the Santa Theresa Convent, you will be seeing the steps from above which is just like any ordinary cement steps. All the coloured tiles are on the facade of the steps and you need to walk down to see the stunning worksmanship of Jorge Selaron. Some recommended to do this way as you need not walk up and down. But this place is worth walking up and down several times to admire the riot of coloured tiles.
There are gems and treasures in every nook and corner, if you care to bend down or maybe climb a little to have a closer look.
These unique colourful steps straddle both the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro running from Joaquim Silva Street and Pinto Martins street. There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. The work eventually spilled over to the steps a the foot of Arcos da Lapa.
Many tourists had the privilege to be photographed with Jorge Selaron as he was constantly working on the steps. He was the face of this bohemian and artistic neighbourhood. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet this legend as he was found dead on the very steps he decorated on January 11, 2013. His body was found on the 215th step in front of his hourse. Neighbours, tourists and well-wishers braved heavy rain to pay tribute to Selaron, who turned the staircase leading up to St Teresa Convent from a notorious and dreary scene to a multi-coloured ‘tribute to the Brazilian people’.
Not only has his neighbours benefitted from Jorge Selaron’s handiwork many famous travel shows, documentaries, travel magazines had featured Escadaria Selaron. It has become an iconic tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro with tourists from every part of the world visiting it everyday come rain or shine. Even famous reality show “The Amazing Race Season 8″ used this site for the participants to find a tile resembling a route info sign.
Escadaria Selaron was featured in Snoop Dogg and Pharrell William’s video clip of “Beautiful”.
HOW TO GET TO ESCADARIA SELARON
Escadaria Selaron is located between Santa Teresa and Lapa area, surrounded by art galleries, cafes, bars and museums. There is no direct buses to take you to the steps of Selaron. From the Casa, simply catch the bus 006 or 007 and get off at the Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches), walk two blocks, turn right and you can’t miss them. From Ipanema or Copacabana, take bus 123, 161 or 433. You can also take the metro and stopped at Gloria or Cinelandia Stations. Once you are around the area, ask for directions and you will be shown the way to the steps. We were told not to take a certain way as it was not that safe and were directed to a better route.