While many visitors flock to Mexico’s coastline for a relaxing spell of surf, sand and sunshine, Mexico City attracts its fair share of tourism thanks to the region’s burgeoning design and architecture scene, bolstered by the city’s annual design week. One of the hottest hotels to call the city home – the Círculo Mexicano – is located in the downtown district, where local design studio Ambrosi Etchegaray balanced a contemporary aesthetic with original architectural charms.
Behind its carved timber doors and prim facade dotted with Juliet balconies, the Círculo Mexicano boutique hotel occupies a 19th-century building that was once home to a set of private residences. The architects lovingly restored its street-facing presence and left behind some of the vintage elements that hint to the building’s storied past – including the dramatic zigzag staircase and exposed brick-and-stone walls – yet found inspiration in the pared-back design style of the Shakers when creating the minimal rooms.
Círculo Mexicano hotel in Mexico City by Ambrosi Etchegaray
“Originally all the design process was inspired by an ecclesiastical aesthetics,” Jorge Ambrosi, co-founder of Ambrosi Etchegaray, said of the project. “With that premise, we imagined an architecture free of ornament, where the correct use of simple materials enhances the quality of the space.”
In the 25 light-filled bedrooms on the building’s second and third floors, which are spread above the ground-level marketplace, minimalist furnishings are now positioned among a breezy coupling of white-painted walls and natural-coloured linen. In some rooms, barrel-vaulted ceilings lined with red bricks do all the talking, while in other rooms views out to the streetscape offer a glimpse into the city’s famed colour-filled markets and cantinas.
We imagined an architecture free of ornament, where the correct use of simple materials enhances the quality of the space.
Lining part of the bedroom walls, Shaker-style peg rails function as versatile storage systems. A candelabra is suspended from the rail, as is a dovetailed timber caddy filled with back-up wax candles. There’s a hand-held mirror strung from a long strap of timber while a spare timber chair – designed by local outfit La Metropolitana – is upturned and tucked behind the rail, cleverly making way for more floor space.
The beds are kept low and generous with simple side tables that merge into the base platform in some rooms. Mirroring the timber peg rails, beech-coloured timber joinery extends into an additional spot to sit or place luggage. Deep-set window bays double as a writing desk or perching place where timber window shutters slide out to provide privacy and ultimate darkness come night time.
Most of the hotel’s communal spaces are situated on the rooftop, where guests will find a swimming pool and a pop-up restaurant from the team behind Paris’ ONA, called ONA ‘Le Toit’ (translating to ‘The Roof’), that dishes up Mexican food with a French twist. Just as the city continues to reinvent itself, the restaurant’s menu will evolve weekly to reflect the chef’s fondness for local, seasonal produce. But one thing remains consistent: the promise of spectacular views across Mexico City’s most notable architectural attractions, including the oldest and largest cathedral in the Americas – the Metropolitan Cathedral – and the grand, 14th-century Templo Mayor.