Haas&Hahn were commissioned by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (MAP) to conceive and engineer a large-scale transformation of Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia. As major industries have gone bankrupt or abandoned the city, this neighborhood has experienced a slow and steady decline for years. Haas&Hahn relocated a block from the site and spent eighteen months as committed advocates to direct and execute the project together with a local team. With community leaders, Haas&Hahn invited a dozen young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 who lived in the area. Additionally, teams of (ex)prisoners, making their re-entry into society, worked on the project.
Haas&Hahn faced the task of painting over 50 individual buildings on the Avenue while all the individual tenants had input in the design for their building. They devised a system of weaving bands of color creating consistency while respecting the desires of the individual building tenants.The colors were chosen after extensive analysis of the palette seen on the streets of Philadelphia. A swatch system was developed so building owners understood the framework and made their selections accordingly. Colors were then integrated into one building subsequently lending colors to the next.
Community engagement and sustainability is central to Haas&Hahn’s social practice. The project provided training and jobs in an area where unemployment and crime is extremely high, especially within the younger population. Wearing sweaters and shirts with the Philly Painting logo, the local painters were identifiable as transformers of their neighborhood. A local team of filmmakers produced monthly episodes of video updates. Half of the painters went on to work for the MAP.