The American Trade Hotel: Atelier Ace's latest venture gives new life to a Panama City landmark
A cultural revolution is afoot in Panama City. No stranger to international visitors, the tropical metropolis has just welcomed a particularly special new arrival in the shape of the American Trade Hotel. Conceived and managed by Atelier Ace - the creative arm of the Ace Hotel Group, which has just scooped a Wallpaper* Design Award 2014 - in partnership with local property developers Conservatorio, the beautiful colonial hotel offers an inspired take on the city's rich heritage.
Located in the heart of Panama City's historical quarter Casco Viejo (also a UNESCO World Heritage site), the American Trade Hotel takes its name from the building it occupies. Built in 1917 and designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, a leading local architect at the time, the four-storey, neo-classical building housed the American Trade Developing Company, a department store at ground level, as well as modern apartments on the upper floors.
Following a period of decline that started in the 1960s and left the neighbourhood in increasing disarray, the building became derelict and was eventually abandoned by 2000, when it was taken over by street gangs. In 2007, it was purchased by Conservatorio, who specialise in preserving and restoring historic buildings in the Casco Viejo district, with the vision of turning it into a hub for the myriad of international visitors, like it once was.
As the tallest building in the neighbourhood, opposite a green plaza, the American Trade Hotel cuts a strong figure. With floor-to-ceiling paned windows and a whitewashed exterior, the majestic building has been restored to its former glory, with lots of details thrown in for good measure. Atelier Ace enlisted its repeat design collaborators, Commune Design, to oversee the aesthetic aspects of the property. Inspired by the building's provenance at the crossroads of culture and trade, Commune brought together a pastiche of design influences, ranging from Vienna secessionist to Mexican modernist and Italian postmodernist.
'We found that a lot of the furnishings had to be brought in, but that was really in the spirit of the narrative; that these things were collected by the owners of the hotel, who were at one point in Austria, Italy, Mexico and Britain,' explains Commune Design partner Roman Alonso. 'The sconces [in the lobby] are more Italian, while the sofas are more English. There's custom-made furniture that evokes Mexico in the 1960s, a lot of which was inspired by the Cuban designer Clara Porset, who lived and worked in Mexico. There is also one salon, which is furnished entirely with colonial antiquities that were all found.'
The same level of design attentiveness continues throughout the property. From a vintage Danish lamp paired with a palm-printed sofa in the library to Mathieu Mategot-inspired patio furniture on the terrace by the rooftop pool and the tiled, swimming hall-style fitness center, the hotel brims over with nostalgic touches. To cap things off, all 50 rooms are finished with reclaimed hardwood floors, stocked with Aesop amenities and showcase beautiful vistas of either Casco Viejo or the Panama Bay.
American Trade Hotel
Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
Rado’s ceramic watches take inspiration from the world’s great gardens
New additions to the Rado True Thinline watch collection reinterpret exotic plants
By Hannah Silver • Published
‘Meaningful disruption’: Heron Preston launches L.E.D. Studio, a convention-defying creative hub
Part art and design studio, part sustainability practice, Heron Preston’s L.E.D. Studio builds on the world he has built at his eponymous New York City-based fashion label. Here, he tells Wallpaper* more
By Pei-Ru Keh • Published
Exploring Punta del Este, the southern hemisphere’s hub for art and relaxation
Punta del Este offers everything, from party to relaxation; all enveloped in idyllic countryside and a rich cultural offering
By Rainbow Nelson • Published
‘Where To Now’: Zara and Wallpaper* launch offbeat travel guides
Zara and Wallpaper’s ‘Where To Now’ travel guides launch with five off-the-beaten-track adventures, from California to Naoshima, for armchair and actual explorers, available to buy now
By Simon Mills • Published
Culver City is a vibrant California destination with art and design must-sees aplenty
Culver City is fast becoming one of California’s most vibrant and creative neighbourhoods, with a swanky Downtown, an Arts District and design-forward restaurants
By Timothy Anscombe-Bell • Published
Vladislav Doronin on Aman New York, and the brand’s future
Aman New York opens in Manhattan, offering hospitality and branded apartments designed by architecture studio Denniston. Owner Vladislav Doronin talks about his ‘hardest and most expensive project’ yet, Aman’s new urban roll-out, and how he’s diversifying the world’s most coveted hotel brand
By Wallpaper* • Last updated
Flack Studio designs Ace Hotel Sydney in historical Tyne Building
Flack Studio designed interiors for the new Ace Hotel Sydney, opening in the historical Tyne Building, in the city's Surry Hills neighbourhood
By Pei-Ru Keh • Last updated
Frank Gehry and Tara Bernerd’s Conrad Los Angeles hotel opens it doors
The Conrad Los Angeles hotel is now open, occupying a sculptural building by Frank Gehry with interiors by Tara Bernerd
By Ellie Stathaki • Last updated
Alsace LA hotel interiors by Home Studios encapsulate SoCal energy
Alsace LA hotel, in Los Angeles’ West Adams, features interiors and furniture designs by Home Studios, inspired by the Bauhaus and Mediterranean architecture
By Pei-Ru Keh • Last updated
Chicago's The Robey is an artfully designed offering by Grupo Habita
Mexico-based Grupo Habita's The Robey, a buzzing hotel in Chicago's Wicker Park neighbourhood is all the rage
By Ella Marshall • Last updated
Piaule opens as a new minimalist escape in the Catskills
Boutique homeware label Piaule has opened a Catskills hotel featuring 24 minimal wooden cabins, an all-day dining restaurant, and a spa, set on an immersive nature reserve
By Pei-Ru Keh • Last updated