A Storied Past
If the walls of Hotel Cartesiano could talk, they would tell tales dating all the way back to the 1600s. That’s because the property is made up of two colonial homes, each of which had a number of lives before being connected and transformed into a contemporary building. One, known as “Arcos,” was a private home, a bodega, and a place where a neighborhood association gathered. “Dos Patios,” meanwhile, was a tile factory and possibly part of a monastery. In fact, during construction, several artifacts were uncovered. “There were some skeletons, as well as antique ceremonial jars, figurines, and clay pieces,” says Felix Blanco, the lead architect and designer on the project.
One of Blanco’s goals was to preserve as much of the historic structures as possible—which is why remnants of the past, including stone walls throughout, remain. On the Dos Patios side, you’ll see vibrant patterned tiles as well as original columns. In Arcos, the arches, façade, and stairs are all hundreds of years old. Blanco wanted to preserve the paint color on the walls, but “because of the aged condition and humidity marks, we had to clean them with a sandblaster,” he says.
Hotel Cartesiano's overall aesthetic is soft and clean, and one that celebrates Mexican design and materials.
A Stylish Future
The biggest challenge Blanco faced was seamlessly connecting the two old buildings. His solution was to create public spaces in between—including a dramatic, double-height lobby—along with a modern building with 40 guestrooms and a central outdoor patio. As for the approach to the design, as Blanco puts it, “Our main premise was not to create a rough copy of what the buildings used to look like or try to imitate the former architecture.”
The overall aesthetic is soft and clean, and one that celebrates Mexican design and materials. Rooms are outfitted with light-colored wood and beige tiles from a local quarry. In the spa pool and showers, waterproofing is provided by a substance extracted from the chukum tree, native to the Yucatan peninsula, and the main pool gets its Instagram-worthy look from handmade, geometric tiles in shades of blue and grey. Mexican designers crafted much of the wooden furniture you see in the public areas.
The Cartesiano team also collaborated with well-known Mexican artists on a number of site-specific pieces. On the large wall to the left of the check-in desk, there’s a mural that depicts 180 pre-Hispanic icons by José Rivelino, and by the staircase leading down to the lobby bar, sculptor Marisa Isabel Torres created a work that features 16 bronze fish in water. Along the outdoor walkway that connects the lobby to Dos Patios, you’ll find Building Under The Rain by Paloma Torres, a sculpture that looks like it’s part of the landscaping and is made of bronze, wood, and mesh. Finally, there are original works by abstract painter Virginia Chevez in the lobby, the library, and the Centena Cuatro restaurant.
The overall effect of Blanco's thoughtful design is one of duality, giving guests a distinct experience of having one foot in the past and the other firmly in the present.