by Sunena V MajuSep 19, 2022
Mexican architecture, design and art are projections of the country's vibrant and myriad natural landscape. While saturated patterns and graphics associated with the country are evocative of the dense forests and colourful fauna residing within them, rustic interiors are indicative of the scantiness witnessed in its arid desert landscape. The presence and practice of both these styles within the country offer a balanced juxtaposition—the warmth of subtle rustic expanses and a healthy presence of vibrant, dense and colourful designs. An example of the former manifests itself in a recently restored project—of a century-old mansion house into the Cigno Hotel Boutique—by architect Roger González, in Merida, Mexico.
The boutique hotel lies in the La Ermita neighbourhood in the historic centre of Merida, a city built over an ancient Mayan city, and which is also known as the White City-owing to the large usage of white limestone and paint. Merida is part of the Yucantan peninsula, which once housed the Mayan civilisation. Cigno Hotel Boutique, in retaining various original features of the structure and utilising archaic craftsmanship methods dating back several centuries, manages to speak of the city's past while offering a locale fit for contemporary nomads. Its neoclassical facade is a nod to the distinct character of the town.
In order to maintain the authenticity of the 19th century Yucatecan mansion, Mexican architect González retained and enhanced some of the more emblematic features in the building, such as cornices, high ceilings, Corinthian-style columns, ornamented capitals, ceiling mouldings, cement tiled floors and mosaic tiled floors. Apart from offering aesthetic value, the preservation of the high-ceiling structure also helps in keeping it cool. The symmetric character of the facade, which comprises three arches, was also conserved. Additionally, the ironwork and joinery of the doors and windows, meticulously repaired and finished, sit in contrast against the steel-blue hue that predominates the outer skin of the building.
An ancient technique called chukum, which involves working with stucco in a manner similar to that used in Mayan pyramids grants the structure an appearance of rustic honesty. The wall finishing blends in with the original friezes and moldings.
“At Cigno, time moves peacefully and unhurriedly, inviting you to take a reading break in the library, relax in the main courtyard with its pool surrounded by lush vegetation, or admire the infinite horizon sheltered by the trees from the second pool on the upper terrace of this city oasis,” the hotel shares in an official release.
The central atrium of the 1930s mansion, retained in its original form, leads up to the lobby and the bar. The space adjacent to it, on the other hand, opens up into a mini store where pieces by local artisans are sold. One of the walls in the central courtyard of the boutique hotel is decorated with a detailed mural from La Ermita de Santa Isabel or the Church of Our Lady of Safe Travels. The artwork is inspired by a sketch in the 1840 book Incidents of Travel in Central America, which illusrates the explorations of John Stephens and Frederick Catherwood across Yucantan Peninsula. A staircase placed along this wall leads up to an expansive terrace dotted with a pool and a sky bar. The topmost point of the building offers panoramic views of the historic center in Merida, to the Ermita park and San Sebastián church. On another side of the courtyard, one can find the kitchen and the restaurant, the walls of which are decorated with travertine marble tiles.
The hotel comprises ten rooms and suites, all of which are characterised by pale-hued walls, wooden beams, and blue-tinted tile floors decorated with the cannage motif. The teracotta hues, juxtaposed against Ticul stone from the Opichén region imbues the interiors with the aura apparent in tropical woods. Inspiration from tropical plants is also borrowed for the furniture and decorative elements designed for Cigno by local master artisans and carpenters.
A coworking salon in the hotel, called the Library, offers flexible spaces for guests and visitors. The configuration of the room can be changed to accommodate work meetings and dinners. Another interesting area in the hotel design is an underground space. Discovered during the restoration process, this traditional cistern originally meant for the collection of rainwater, has been transformed into a two-room wine cellar.
The hotel boutique, housed in the century-old mansion, with murals and decorations referencing past civilisations, and a facade ascribing to the extant features typical in the city, acts as a bridge to various past and present tales, as well as styles and traditions.