Back in 1928, the most famous and reputable architectural firm in all Latin America was that of Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo. The Pinacoteca do Estado, the Municipal Theater, the Prédio da Light and the São Paulo Public Market are some of São Paulo’s listed buildings that the Azevedo offices both designed and oversaw construction.
The Casa das Rosas is yet another addition to this illustrious list. Boasting thirty rooms, a chapel, several courtyards and a rose garden to which the house owes its name, Azevedo chose to build this classic French style mansion along the stretch of real estate that was then home to most of the millionaire coffee barons of the day: the Avenida Paulista.
The Azevedo family moved into the house after its completion in 1935 and the mansion remained home to his heirs until they finally left in 1985. The Avenida Paulista of 1980s had become a hubbub of commercial buildings, banks, modern edifices and the general bustle of people and vehicles so typical of post-Industrial São Paulo. After five decades of growth around it, many believed the building had outlived its welcome on the Avenida and the Casa das Rosas seemed doomed to demolition until its fortunes changed in the form of an unprecedented civil action in Brazil: while permission was granted to construct a modern commercial building on the land facing Alameda Santos (opposite the Avenida Paulista), the mansion itself was declared a National Landmark by the State, thus leveraging a restoration process which transformed the decaying mansion into a blooming cultural center.
Mirroring the development of the city of São Paulo and the country as a whole, Avenida Paulista was initially settled by wealthy land owners made rich by agriculture. By the mid-20th century however, they had been replaced by rich industrialists who made it their home for a few short decades before both they and Brazil’s already late Industrial age gave way to yet another social and economic transformation. In a few years, the financial world - a world of modern skyscrapers and sumptuous banks – engulfed this region that the people of São Paulo, the paulistanos as they are known, have elected a symbol of their city. The Paulista, as they affectionately call this iconic thoroughfare, is considered a perfect analogy to the economic development of both the city and the country – transitioning from young agricultural nation (the avenue was built less than 80 years after Brazil's independence from Portugal) to late industrial development and finally to a commercial society - all in less than one century.
But there was more to come. As the cornerstone of a transformation that saw the proliferation of museums, bookstores, movie and stage theaters, parks and rose gardens, flower-beds and monuments over the following decades, the Casa das Rosas was re-inaugurated in 1991, the avenue’s centenary year, elevating the Avenida Paulista to a cultural attraction without equal in the city
Now acknowledged as a cultural hub by the city’s diverse communities, the Avenida Paulista has become an icon of democracy, a stage for social gatherings and politicized manifestations in a truly democratic arena where people are welcome to express themselves and publicly debate how their city is run. The Paulista is where millions of people gather every year to celebrate diversity and voice their demand for social inclusion during the Gay Pride Parade and it also provides the backdrop for the millions who flock to celebrate the traditional festivities of Christmas and New-Year's eve. Surrounded by this hive of activity and change, the Casa das Rosas stands as a quintessential representative of São Paulo's architecture, symbolizing bygone days and the transformation of the city and the lives of those who live in it.
Renamed the Espaço Haroldo de Campos de Poesia e Literatura, the Casa das Rosas reopened its doors to this socio-historical context in 2004 and is now home to a variety of cultural activities, inviting the population of São Paulo to participate in courses, creative writing and critical literature workshops, lectures, debates, book launches, literary and musical presentations, soirées, theatrical plays, literary exhibitions and so on. In addition to these courses and workshops, which are open to both aspiring and accomplished writers wishing to polish their art, the Casa das Rosas has become a museum that is renowned for divulging and promoting the work of writers who are often neglected by the popular market.
The interest shown by the population has been extremely positive. The Casa das Rosas now welcomes eighty thousand visitors a year and most of them come to actively participate in its courses and literary events. While these activities serve to initiate people of all ages and social and educational backgrounds into the world of literature, many established writers also claim they are a source of motivation. In short, the Casa das Rosas convenes, generates and disseminates two intrinsic characteristics of the modern day Avenida Paulista - a blend of erudition present in the many courses and lectures, and revolutionary spirit, manifest by the countless artists, poets, musicians, dramatists and writers that take to the stage to perform their experimental work.
“To promote the recognition, dissemination and democratization of poetry and literature, to encourage the acts of reading and artistic creation, upholding and debating the historical-cultural heritage protected here, both architecturally and in the form of the literary collection of Haroldo de Campos”.
- To transform the Casa das Rosas into “a museum of itself”, raising public awareness of the importance of preserving the city’s cultural and historical heritage.
- To support all stages of literary creation, offering technical training and resources for professionalization to all writers, be they beginners or established professionals.
- To establish a center for the preservation, investigation, reflection, documentation and dissemination of the work of the poet and essayist Haroldo de Campos, providing an invaluable reference source both nationally and internationally.
Legal Instruments relevant to the Incorporation of Casa das Rosas – Espaço Haroldo de Campos de Poesia e Literatura
Decree No. 49.237, dated December 9, 2004, signed by Governor Geraldo Alckmin, states that Casa das Rosas shall be named “Casa das Rosas - Espaço Haroldo de Campos de Poesia e Literatura” and determines that it shall house the Haroldo de Campos Collection:
GERALDO ALCKMIN, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF SÃO PAULO, exercising his legal powers and in light of the declaration of the Department of Culture, Decrees:
Article 1 – The property, purpose of Decree No. 32.994, dated February 18, 1991, shall henceforth be named "Casa das Rosas - Espaço Haroldo de Campos de Poesia e Literatura", wherein the Library donated by the family of Haroldo de Campos shall be housed.
Article 2 – The decree herein shall enter into effect on its date of publication, thereby revoking Decree No. 33.061, dated March 12, 1991. Palácio dos Bandeirantes, December 9, 2004.
Decree No. 50.941, dated July 5, 2006, reorganizes the Department of Culture and sets forth the main obligations of Casa das Rosas:
Article 83 – Casa das Rosas – Espaço Haroldo de Campos shall establish a central hub for the dissemination of poetry and literature and other forms of art; it shall house the Haroldo de Campos library serving as both a reference and lending library as well as providing state of the art technology for use in the process of artistic creation.
In 2009, the State of São Paulo Department of Culture validated the following Mission for Casa das Rosas, set forth in the Strategic Plan requested by the Department’s Preservation of Museological Heritage Unit:
Mission: “To promote the recognition, dissemination and democratization of poetry and literature, to encourage the acts of reading and artistic creation, upholding and debating the historical-cultural heritage protected here, both architecturally and in the form of the literary collection of Haroldo de Campos”.
Three elements designated by the State as part of the Casa das Rosas’s work should be stressed:
1. Promotion and dissemination of poetry and literature in general.
2. Preservation of the Haroldo de Campos Collection.
3. Preservation of the historical and architectural landmark that is the Casa das Rosas.