São Paulo: Post-Apocalyptic City

01 March, 2016

Facundo Guerra is one of São Paulo’s most successful nightlife entrepreneurs, known for transforming some of the city’s most historic spaces into equally epic clubs, helping to regenerate the city’s center. We chatted with Facundo about his passion for the city, and why it’s the “life” in nightlife that really makes him tick.

How did you become interested in São Paulo nightlife?

To be honest with you, I don't like the nightlife. I don't drink, never have. I'm not the type of guy who went clubbing in the nineties. But clubs are where people gather together to change, to think, to have fun. There are two kinds of stages: the inner stage, where I’m a specialist, providing the best kitchen for chefs to perform their art, the best DJ booth, the best stage for a live band, for artists to communicate with audiences. And there’s the outer stage, where the human drama happens: where people get together, make babies, split up, live and die. I know at least 15 babies born after their parents met in my first club. And three or four people who died getting drunk, driving, and crashing their cars. The club is like a theater, an aquarium. Deciding to open one… it’s like making a decision that changes people’s lives.

Tell us about São Paulo. What’s so special about it?

First of all, we have travelers, not tourists. Without tourism, something changes, because people make a cultural apparatus for themselves and not for extracting money from other people. When you go to Rio, there’s a whole system of people trying to take coins off you, because you're a tourist and they lack money. But in São Paulo, we make things for ourselves. It's one of the few megalopolises of the world that has almost no tourists, just travelers willing to get lost and find something. São Paulo can be very frightening because you have this sense of disorientation. It's very ugly, if you’re trying to find beauty.

Isn’t there a kind of beauty in that, though?

Paris is a beautiful city. It's symmetrical. It matches your idea of beauty because it's classical. You have this horizon. But do you know Pollock’s painting? It's a mess, but there’s order inside of it, if you pay attention. If you have the right eyes, you're going to find a lot of beauty in São Paulo. If you look for the first time, it's ugly. The second time, it's not that ugly. The third time, it's the most beautiful city in the world, because it's like a post-apocalyptic city.

Wouldn’t you describe other cities that way, too?

I have this sense that one day every city is going to be like São Paulo. If you need to find an image of São Paulo, use a Pollock painting, mix it with a still from Blade Runner, and add some radiation to it. Then you'll have an image emerging of São Paulo. I love it, man.

Tell us about the scene. What makes São Paulo special?

There’s a battle going on in São Paulo right now. As citizens, we used to lack identity. Our identity was built on the idea of making money. So cars, shopping malls, work... these kinds of metastases of a city growing without any planning. Everything was the idea of production. When you talk to someone from outside of São Paulo about the city, the first thing they think of is helicopters: super-rich people crossing the sky, and poor people in the suburbs. But São Paulo is changing right now.

“If you need to find an image of São Paulo, use a Pollock painting, mix it with a still from Blade Runner, and add some radiation to it.”

Why do you think that is?

We don't have any kind of memory. The oldest buildings in the city are from the ’50s. It's hard to find something from the 19th century. The first beauties in old downtown are from ’20s or ’30s. It’s a contemporary city, built in the ’70s; we had a coup d’état here in Brazil, so the military father city was this never-ending expansion of concrete to make people work rather than respect the memory of the city.

How did that affect your generation?

My generation (I’m 42 now) lacked a sense of identity, because we were afraid of the streets, we had shopping malls to consume, and we needed to produce. Work, consumption, and cars were how we expressed the idea of a city. They didn’t give us an identity. But right now, this idea is changing. People are fighting for public spaces, making parks. And it's a fight going on right now.

Would you say people are embracing a new spirit, a new identity?

There's a really beautiful spirit. Because now we are thinking, no: we’re going to live and die here. We are not to going to leave the city. We’re trying to understand our identity and reshape it with love. We’re trying to recognize our history, our heritage. Call it identity, creativity, the modernist movement: our city's center is like a battle for the definition of this new identity. I don't know any other megalopolis that is budding a new sense of identity right now.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start?

It was an accident. I used to work for America Online. I was 30 and got fired. I had enough money to invest in a fashion label. Back in the beginning of the 2000s here in São Paulo, fashion and nightlife were really close together. I’m an engineer. I like to solve problems. So I studied what makes for really good nightlife, and started to work on the club, almost in a scientific way, like it was a well-oiled, beautiful machine. It needed to work for other people to have fun.

Which of your clubs are you most proud of?

That would be the Mirante 9 de Julho because it tells a story about my city. Imagine if you opened a club in the Statue of Liberty? It’s like that. The city’s most iconic landmark used to be on postcards in the ’40s. It wasn’t abandoned, but was invisible to 99.99% of the Paulistanos. Nobody could see the place. If I told you that was possible, you’d laugh, right? You’d say, "No, that's not possible." But Mirante 9 de Julho was this space. We recovered it, brought it back to life, to the people. MASP, The Museum of Art of São Paulo (the most famous museum in Brazil) is right there. It’s our Statue of Liberty. It's not a place where I make money. To be honest, I spend a lot of money on it every month! But it's the place where, when I grow old, I'm going to say to my daughter, Tina, "Papa used it to sell alcohol to make a living. But I brought Mirante 9 de Jolho back too."

To meet more São Paulo superstars, follow along on Instagram at #ChandelierDoesSaoPaulo

Words by the Editors. Photos (c) Facundo Guerra.

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