Calderon House: Narrating a Colonial Restoration in Polanco

Wrriten by: Redacción Sordo Madaleno | December 28, 2017

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A commission that opened up the possibility of getting involved in the restoration of a magnificent California Colonial style building in Mexico, Casa Calderón stands out from many projects undertaken by the Interior Design department with its architectural challenges that required a year and a half of construction work.

Casa Calderón is a work of contemporary renovation led by SMA’s director of interior design Enrique Ralph in the Polanco neighborhood, which gives new purpose to a beautiful California Colonial style house, inserting the Nobu Polanco and Sylvestre restaurants.

Situating Nobu Polanco on the ground floor and Sylvestre on the first and second floors, the entire design concept of the restoration was intended to do honor to the exquisite original ornamentation (the moldings on the ceiling and around the windows, the carved stone arches and the double stone staircase) and the distribution of the mansion house. It further sought to integrate these historic elements into a timeless site of culinary expression.

It could be imagined that only a few fine details were needed to emphasize the presence of the original ornamentation in the contemporary design; however, much more work was needed to commence the restoration of Casa Calderón.

Casa Calderón main entrance. © Paúl Rivera

Following several studies and the supervision of the National Fine Arts Institute (INBA) to begin the intervention works, the decision was made to remove weight from the structural slabs by removing the existing infill walls. The aim of this was to improve the new system of slabs to enable it to house the new installations and restaurant services, without damaging the historical construction.

In this regard, attention must be drawn to the expert work of the artisans charged with the restoration of the original moldings of the roofs and windows, the carved stone arches and the striking staircase of the main façade, which welcomes customers to both restaurants.

The new interior design of both restaurants employs elements of water, earth, and air. The constant presence of natural elements using materials with a strong character—such as stone, wood and metal—was the key to defining the quality of the new spaces.

In architectural terms, Nobu Polanco, a Japanese restaurant with Peruvian influences, is contained within the three original narrow bays of the ground floor. The first bay is assigned to the service and circulation areas and the other two are dedicated to the gastronomic experience.

Interior view of Nobu Polanco. © Paúl Rivera

The main dining room encloses the principal natural element that conceptually defines everything else: a mangrove tree root that spreads throughout the reception area until it reaches the dining area. Here it is emphasized with points of light, creating deep shadows within its structure to serve as a stand-out element in the space.

To the rear, a semi-open, double-height courtyard is filled with natural light and enjoys a significant presence of vegetation, which amplifies the initial design concept.

The materials chosen for the interior design are defined by the dark and neutral colors, with the aim of using lighting to emphasize the moldings and furniture. The furniture was exclusively designed for this restaurant by SMA, guided by the concepts of simplicity, functionality, and design.

Interior view of Sylvestre, from terrace in second level. © Paúl Rivera

On the upper floors of Casa Calderón, Sylvestre is conceived as a pleasant and welcoming space housing a Mexican restaurant.

The first floor contains the ‘smoking room’ which employs a bronze mirror ceiling, wooden panels, and leather furniture. On the opposite side is the bar, the counter of which is shaped from a single mango tree trunk. The first floor also contains the kitchen and service stair, invisible to diners.

The second floor comprises the two dining areas. One is finished with a cement tile floor, a bronze ceiling and wooden shelving to imbue it with a similar sense of warmth. The other maintains the original finishes of the mansion, with granite floors and a fireplace that recalls a former age.

The heart of the second floor is the second bar, which also incorporates a counter shaped from a single mango trunk, and provides service to the dining area. It is followed by the main terrace, formed by a space with large openings in the roof slab to allow in natural light—one of the principal challenges for the new design, which is tempered by wooden pergolas, vegetation, and mirrors.

Sylvestre Restaurant. © Paúl Rivera

Subsequently, a floor extension was built to the rear, with a beautiful garden as a  natural backdrop to the dining area. The objective of the landscape design was to use different tones of green to contrast with the gray hues of the cement floor, and the metal-clad roof.

Each original detail and each new element is combined in such a way as to demonstrate that the restoration of a historic building can include contemporary notes, without displacing the sense of history that permeates Casa Calderón.

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