Located in Mexico City’s historic downtown — where one of the oldest Spanish cathedrals in the Americas rests atop the ceremonial center of the Aztec world — the Círculo Mexicano is housed in a 19th-century townhome that’s been transformed into a Shaker-inspired boutique hotel by the hotel developer Grupo Habita and our architecture firm, Ambrosi Etchegaray.
Circulo Mexicano is a project that in a short period of time considered to adapt to new ways of life and contain the activities, businesses and ideologies of the 21st century, in a property that rescues infinity of materials, memories and space conditions that are linked to the past. At the same time, it attends to the fact that a property with a vision towards the future should imply ceasing to conceive heritage as something static —as if it were a relic— and understanding that that relic carefully intervened and preserved can modify the memory of those who surround it; and at a large scale, it’s society. This hotel has to do with that idea towards building the city. Where preserving a property does not mean leaving facades standing, but rescuing complete structures to reoccupy and inhabit with new uses.
Therefore, the project was committed to restoring physical and material characteristics that are relevant in different historical moments but, it also weaves conditions and memories that re-signify the property, from conditions that happened in the house to creating associations that consider alternative historical views of citizens.
As an ode to Manuel Álvarez Bravo, the building’s former resident and one of Mexico’s most celebrated 20th-century photographers, the space makes a reference to the function of a traditional camera system, which can play with filters, frames and light sources. Circulo Mexicano houses its own exchanges and relationships not only for ‘survival’ —sharing, trading, helping or being helped in quotidian conditions— but also for their well-being, rethinking luxury in hotels and possibilities for a space to host a sense of collectivity. Life in a community has to do with the life of commerce, dialogue, care, and closeness. Therefore, reflecting on the collective space that such hotel may generate in the indefinite limbo between the private property and the public space in this context of the historic center is more necessary than ever. The hotel’s private life surrounds the central courtyard as if it were the street that enters to the end of the building in order to take the guest to the last level. A space with a different environment that attempts to provide other encounters as well as to turn the visitor attention back to the cathedral, to the street and with the city center, one rich in its history and diversity.