by Jerry ElengicalSep 28, 2022
Ambrosi Etchegaray reimagines a 19th century townhome into a marketplace and boutique hotel with Círculo Mexicano. Led by the Mexican architectural firm and hotel developer Grupo Habita, the project transforms the former patio-centric home into a chic property, which as per its architects “rescues infinity of materials, memories and space conditions that are linked to the past”.
The three-storey building sits in the beloved downtown in Mexico city where eclectic architectural styles, colourful markets and charismatic cantinas unfold surprises at every corner.
Interestingly, this is the building where celebrated Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002) lived his formative years, and also shot the iconic ‘El ensueño’ (The Day Dream, 1931).
As an homage to the legend, Grupo Habita in collaboration with the Manuel Álvarez Bravo Foundation selected several of his works, which are exhibited throughout the guest rooms and public areas.
“There, everything was food for my camera,” Bravo once said referring to Guatemala 20, which is the building’s address. “Everything had an inherent social content; in life everything has social content,” he had said of it. In the new avatar, the architecture of this incredible landmark captures the essence of its rich past through design yet keeps an eye to the future.
Instead of approaching the structure in isolation, architects Jorge Ambrosi and Gabriela Etchegaray of Ambrosi Etchegaray decided to contribute towards rebuilding it in a manner where “preserving a property does not mean leaving facades standing, but rescuing complete structures to reoccupy and inhabit with new uses”.
Leaving cues of its historic brilliance, the interiors draw reference from the design values of Shaker: a Christian sect founded in 1747, enduringly appreciated for their contribution to American crafts and architecture. The group advocated function over form, valued austerity as the living mantra and regarded spaces as home to symmetry and serenity.
The building is segregated into three programmatic spaces: the marketplace on the ground floor, 25-room capacity boutique hotel on the upper two stories and a pool and bar on the rooftop. A central courtyard and a staircase attached to a crumbling brick wall that link all floors permeate visual synergy through the building.
Eighteen of the 25 rooms have their own skylit patio, while the others feature a balcony overlooking the Metropolitan Cathedral. A cohesive look and feel, without any clutter characterise the language of the guest rooms. A nude colour palette revealing plain white walls is accentuated by ash-wood doors and windows and a brick-vaulted roof in a few bedrooms. Keeping furniture to bare minimum, blocky plinths double as side tables and base for the bed and the wooden cupboard while a Shaker-inspired peg rails to hang mirrors, candle stands, trinket boxes and other paraphernalia feature on the walls. The furnishing including the wooden chairs have been designed by local design firm La Metropolitana, lending the space a charming new life and preserving an important past legend.