Shipping to
United States
  • Photography by Mr Robert Astley Sparke
  • Words by Mr Mike Hodgkinson

It's the best skyline that I could have," says Mr Facundo Guerra, 39, looking out from his office over the original centre of São Paulo. "Because here I can see all downtown and I'm 2km away from all my operations." A couple of floors below him is his flagship venue, Lions Nightclub, and squeezed into the mismatched flank of buildings that rises up over the Liberdade district is his live music space, Cine Joia, a restored movie theatre. Nearby is the Catedral da Sé. "São Paulo was born a couple of blocks away from there - the original point zero mark."

Mr Guerra has become a prime mover in the renaissance of an area effectively deserted during the 1970s, and he currently runs six venues, including his latest bar offering, Riviera, a collaboration with innovative chef Mr Alex Atala to resurrect the former veteran bar of the same name. Mr Guerra's functional, unflashy office space reflects the temperament of somebody who has made a habit of getting things done - one open-plan hub, no partitions, and a single meeting room.

Why do you feel such a strong affinity for downtown São Paulo?
I am proud of my area. My father, Onofre Guerra, used to be a left-wing revolutionary back in the 1960s. We had a coup d'état here, so he went to Argentina in 1968, met my mum, and then I was born. My grandfather was a friend of Che Guevara - I was born in Córdoba, the city where Guevara grew up. We came back to Brazil in 1980 after they passed the amnesty law. I'm Brazilian, just Argentinian-born because of the circumstances. And I'm not just Paulistano [an inhabitant of São Paulo]; I'm a Paulistano from downtown.
Do you encourage a flea market approach to office décor?
Yes, everyone can bring something. Some of the pieces here are not even mine. That's cool. I like it when people bring their things. We work in entertainment; I don't want people to try to say you are going to entertain all the time, but it's good to enter the office and for it not to be commonplace.
Your venues are often in places that have been overlooked and neglected - why?
I love to find a hidden gem. We have a really short memory here in São Paulo. If you find something from the 1950s, that's really old school for us. Our aesthetic memory is from the 1980s - most of the city was built then, that's why you see stupid neo-classical architecture all over the place.
What's your approach to renovation?
When I start a project, I enter the building and I say, OK, I respect you but I'm not going to restore you. Because restoration is a lie. You cannot restore anything. It pertains to another decade, another way of thinking. Don't recreate the past - honour the past but look to the future. Nostalgia for me is really sad. Vintage things are for young people. People tend to romanticise the world that they don't live in. It's strange: nostalgia for me is a kind of poison for the soul.
How does that work in practice?
Riviera is our most risky project so far, because it's a project from the 1940s. It started out as an elite bar, and then became a revolutionaries' bar, and an intellectuals' bar. It had a lot of different incarnations. We started to do historical research, and I said, "No, that's wrong. We don't need to look to the past. See the building, then repurpose the bar to nowadays." It's the same thing that I currently have with motorcycles. I love to find old motorcycles - and they are kind of cheap here in São Paulo because they throw them away - and I start to build a new motorcycle with that skeleton.