If you’re familiar with post-war São Paulo, you can picture its imposing warehouses that once housed textiles, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and more, that came to drive the Latin American industry. This year, one of these warehouses, a towering metallurgical plant, became the heart and home of ARCA, a new initiative driving art, entrepreneurship, and creativity in Brazil and beyond. We spoke to ARCA Partner and Berlin School participant, Andrea Galasso, about how the project began and the mission for ARCA to become a catalyst for creative transformation in Brazil.



The ARCA building has been a huge transformation project. Can you give us some background on how it came together?

Almost two years ago, I was developing a project for a music concert that needed an innovative venue in São Paulo. My team and I had visited many different places when we came across a former metallurgical building that played an important role in the industrial development in the post-war period. The huge building had been empty for five years and was about to be rented to a logistics company that would use it to park buses!

We saw a big opportunity there: the former factory’s dimensions, characteristics, and location were perfect to host not only concerts, but summits and exhibitions, and even to be used as a film set.




We approached the owners, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in Latin America, and they were open to discussing a new use for their property. After months of research, debates on concept, and discussions over business scenarios, we concluded a plan to transform that empty building into a venue for temporary rental for events and film shoots.


The property had to undergo some renovation to be adapted from industrial use to an events venue. The condition from the owners to start such renovations was that we had to come up with some realistic indication that the place would attract clients. I used my personal network to approach the producers of São Paulo Fashion Week - the fifth most important fashion show in the world - and invited them to visit the building. 

When they entered the place last January, it was an immediate “match”: they said right away that they wanted to produce their event there. The deal to hold SPFW twice a year, for the next three years, was closed in less than two months. With that first and important client, we had the necessary push to start the enterprise. The renovation took five months and was mostly related to introducing specific safety equipment: the original structure was kept as it was built, more than 60 years ago. ARCA was opened last October, with SPFW #46.

Tell us about the projects that are already budding from the ARCA community.

The symbolism attached to the name ARCA (Ark in Portuguese) is renewal, transformation, a vessel that carries the hope of rebirth (Noah’s Ark) or to keep a treasure (Ark of the Covenant), besides being connected with the exploration of new worlds.  


Since its conception, we have thought this project as a holistic platform for the creative industry. So, the general idea around ARCA is to offer a new and versatile option for the events market and the film industry. In a short period, ARCA already got the attention from professionals related to arts, music, design, technology, games, fashion, and audio-visual, and is receiving requests for summits, sports events, TV programs, music concerts, art exhibitions, and brand activation projects. 


Physical space can have a huge impact on our creative mindset and productivity. What aspects of ARCA are designed to drive this kind of energy?

ARCA has a post-industrial atmosphere in an area of 9,000 m² - a space with few obstructions and 20 meters in height. This raw, protected, vast, and high-ceilinged space invites producers, stage directors, architects, scenographers, and artists to explore possibilities and to set up their projects in different ways inside ARCA. I always say it is a white canvas ready to receive innovative works. It is also interesting to see that the magnitude of the space, rather than creating a sense of strangeness, is being noticed by creators and the public as a welcoming and inviting place.


What is unique about the creative scene in São Paulo?

Its variety and resourcefulness. São Paulo is a very cosmopolitan city and at the same time receives creative people from all over the country (which is very large and diverse). You may find designers that deal with cutting edge technology to develop their products, as well as craftsmen that use traditional techniques. You can go to an international rock band concert or to an alternative performance from an artist born in the Amazon region. You encounter a huge range of qualified artists such as writers, musicians, performers, and designers, not to mention professionals in advertising, art, design, content development, and audio-visuals, and in each of those areas, many different sub-groups will be represented. This diversity brings lots of input and I see there are many cross-references being tested on different areas.


What challenges are creative businesses and entrepreneurs facing in Brazil?

Probably one of the most important challenges is how to converge the creative potential with the local resources available. We have been suffering a severe economic crisis in Brazil and budget limitations tend to cause partners or investors to avoid projects that are less mainstream. This scenario leads them to support projects that are safer over the ones that are more experimental.  Any project that is more innovative suffers delays on its implementation.


One thing we hear a lot from Brazilian creative businesses is the challenge of bringing their work to a global audience. How do you hope that ARCA will influence international engagement and global reputation for Brazilian creative work?

ARCA has a two-sided challenge: to attract relevant local projects and be opened to international initiatives. I find extremely positive, the potential exchange of experiences between Brazilian and international professionals from the creative industries. So, if we get to transform ARCA into a hub for local and international projects to happen, the possibility of exchanging information and influence may be a reality, and local initiatives may expand their reach to a global audience through such connections.


That is my personal challenge: to bring international attention to the venue and to attract projects from all over the world to be held at ARCA. Since I am currently dividing my time between Brazil and Europe, I have already started to promote ARCA to international producers, agencies, and professionals. Let’s hope interesting people can join the ride in this ship!


What are your plans for ARCA beyond its four (or more!) walls?

Underlying the whole ARCA idea, there is the ambition to promote positive transformation in the neighborhood. ARCA wants to bring a completely different attendance to an industrial area, following the example of other cities around the world that have transformed decayed or empty regions into areas for entertainment, culture, leisure, or sports. ARCA was inspired, for instance, by the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam and the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. We want ARCA to be a catalyst for a positive urban transformation, helping to promote economic and social development for the region and the city.


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