Roosevelt Square Seduces Argentines

The New Roosevelt Square: opening tomorrow (29)

3, 2, 1… In less than 24 hours, Roosevelt Square will reopen, this Saturday (29), bringing a fresh air to downtown São Paulo. The renovation cost R$ 55 million and included the structural recovery of an area of 19 thousand m².

The renovation started in 2010 in an attempt to revitalize the place, which had gone into decline since the mid-90’s, after its glory days. So, up to the early 21st century, the region was known as a spot for drug users and hoodlums. With the renovation, City Hall aims to change the negative image the region had.

However, much before the work started, the square lived a first breath of revitalization with the arrival of the theatre company Os Satyros, who opened their headquarters there in 2000. After them, other companies also decided to set up in the vicinities, turning the place into a theatrical hub for the city.

So great was the contribution of  Ivam Cabral and Rodolfo García Vázquez’s company, that the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion dedicated a whole article to the renovation of Roosevelt Square, never forgetting to credit its pioneers: The Satyros.

Click here to read the original text. See below the english translation by Fernanda Sampaio:

“A São Paulo Model for a Buenos Aires Initiative, by Leonardo Tarifeño

An example could be São Paulo. More precisely Roosevelt Square, located between Consolação and Augusta streets, right in the middle of the Brazilian megalopolis. Designed in the late 60’s as a part of a large cultural project, Roosevelt square became the centre of a political debate and, for that reason, it never fulfilled the dream for which it had been planned. In fact, the back and forth of budget decisions and of architectural and conceptual designs ended up removing it from its original function. According to Paulo Mendes da Rocha, then President of the Institute of the Architects of Brazil, São Paulo division, the square was then a good example of everything a square shouldn’t be. Unfinished bridges, fragile structures and solid cement confirmed Mendes da Rocha’s notion and opened the door for greater degradation, reflected in a large heap of sadness and concrete.

In the late 90’s, Roosevelt Square lived its period of decline. The neighborhood that had been the heaven of bohemians (the corridor from traditional Cine Bijou to Djalma’s bar, where iconic singer Elis Regina had her first show in São Paulo), had changed altogether. The abandoned bridges became the perfect hide-out for criminals, drug dealers and homeless children. For years, Roosevelt competed with Crackolândia, the place where crack addicts wander and which is known as the most violent and dangerous region in the city. In the beginning of the 21st century, artists from the Satyros group arrived to get settled in the several buildings that line the square. The Satyros changed the place into an open, popular and avant-garde theatre. Their proposal was so daring, that the neighbors slowly started to feel again the pride to live in a district that had been synonymous of urban failure. Bohemians and artists from other regions showed up at the square to see the group. A German playwright wrote a play about the district’s daily life. The Gay Parade was the final stop of her research. Small and large entrepreneurs got excited and started to invest in the surrounding areas, with specialized stores, bars, bookshops and artistic events linked to the theatre.

In addition to the theatre, The Satyros opened a bar on the square and started promoting artistic events called Satyrianas, for which spectators paid what they could to see the shows. Today, thanks to these pioneering actions, Roosevelt Square is consecrated as one of the city’s great cultural hubs. São Paulo has recovered its focus on the economic activity and the neighbors feel that the street has become an asset which should by no means be abandoned or left in the lazy hands of politicians or social outsiders.

Maybe the Roosevelt Square example can be a mirror for the sort of initiative that proposes the opening of bars and services on the squares of Buenos Aires. Public space is a place for co-habitation, which is conquered through sharing. The neighborhood is the home, the communal extension of the house and the square’s landscape functions as a setting for education and meeting, which no city can afford to discard.

In the case of Buenos Aires, the metamorphosis that goes from the square (to which it circulates) to the democratic setting (that lives) is in the hands of the representatives of the political class. Time will tell if they will rise to the challenge to live the artistic experience that made history in São Paulo.”


* This text was published on september 28 (

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