|The American trade Hotel
|Hotels, Architecture, Design, Interior Design
text by Katerina Katopis for Yatzer.com
One January evening around midnight, after a 20 hrs trip, I arrived at the American Trade Hotel. My luggage had been lost and I was feeling unsurprisingly tired and aggravated. But the moment I stepped into the airy lobby with its high ceilings, swanky vibe and cool colonial deco, my mood changed instantly. I felt like I was coming back home, like I was stepping into my own private cocoon away from a bustling metropolis, and strangely enough like I was a character in a John Le Carré spy novel – the lobby of the American Trade Hotel being the perfect get-together spot for foreign correspondents and double agents... Jazzy tunes were echoing from the bar, the staff was all smiles and obliging, the guests elegant yet relaxed as they sipped their exotic cocktails and leant back towards the tropical wallpaper adorning the walls. A chilled chardonnay and some delicious Ecuadorian Pacari chocolate later, I slept like a baby tucked into my crisp Frette linen, under the gentle breeze of my ceiling fan.
Located in the heart of the Casco Viejo on Herrera Square (Panamas’ Old Town, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site), the American Trade Hotel was built in 1917 (designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the founder of Panama’s ''Bellavistana'' style of architecture) as the American Trade Developing Building, in the boom years following the completion of the Panama Canal. The four story building was the tallest in the country, and housed a department store in the lower floors and apartments on top. It soon became the meeting place of la crème de le crème that came through Panama City. In the 60s and 70s along with the rest of the Casco Viejo, it was however, abandoned and vandalized, before it was thankfully acquired, in 2007, by Conservatorio (a development agency led by American ex pat KC Hardin dedicated to buying, restoring and operating buildings in the Casco Viejo) with a vision of restoring it to its former glory.
Atelier ACE, along with veteran collaborators Commune Design came on board and the result is a lofty, colonial mélange of cultures and times gone buy. With great respect to its heritage, the neighborhood and the history associated with it, the team created a new legacy blending beautifully the old and the new, the traditional with the contemporary and the cosmopolitan with the bohemian. Still the tallest building in the neighborhood, the American Trade Hotel stands out with its white washed façade, floor to ceiling paned windows, imposing balconies and majestic architecture. Largely inspired by its strategic location on the crossroads between East and West, the design features a bric-a-brac of cultures and influences, from Europe to Latin America. Handmade patterned tiling is perfectly juxtaposed against the Bertoia side chairs by Knoll in the lobby bar and 2nd floor courtyard. Further beautiful features include the Viennese rocking chair and the indigenous indoor plants which are in perfect harmony with the soft leather and wireframe pieces, and the numerous antiques scattered throughout (especially in the Hemingway-esque library/reading room). There is an indoor courtyard, an outdoor pool with a view over the old town and the ever-changing Panamanian skyline, as well as a small gym. All 50 rooms are different in layout and size, but all feature stunning views of the cathedral, the neighboring colonial streets or the Plaza, high ceilings, large windows or balconies, vintage light switches, and are stocked with soothing Aesop toiletries. The highlight? The wonderful wide planks that make up the floors of all rooms, are nothing else than sunken logs which have been salvaged from the canal. And that is exactly what makes this property so special: Attention to detail, attention to every design feature, elements that blend in and will age well in synch with their surroundings in the charming Casco Viejo. This is the new face of Panama, and it is looking absolutely fabulously chic – in a uniquely Panamanian way.