How to get to know the essence of the Old City of Sucre, Bolivia?
In December 2009 a new and different hotel option in Sucre opened its doors. Hotel Villa Antigua is located in a Republican-style mansion dated from 1860, restored with great dedication by its owners: Maria Teresa Molina and Dick Commandeur. It took them 4 years to repair and rebuild the old part, strengthening and highlighting the earlier structures, removing those of more recent origin and adding new spaces needed to achieve a hotel with visual history, but at the same time modern, safe and comfortable for domestic and foreign visitors. The existing materials have mostly been recovered, restored and reused, such as beams, doors and natural stones. A fusion of the Republican style, with its pillars and thick walls of adobe, was applied, with an architectural vision, great contribution of the architect Daniel Contreras, summarized in a phrase that has guided and determined the process: “the old must not be imitated, but can be enhanced with architecture of integration”. It led us to a result of colonial impact with an air of elegant sobriety and great style, unique in this beautiful city.
In the rooms you can feel the history from the walls of the era when measurement was not yet rectilinear and accurate and by the particular use of materials and colours. But at the same time, they seem modern by the style of decoration, warm and unobtrusive, with the use of natural elements and original artwork of Bolivia. The furniture has its own history and expresses real art, and also carries this blend of modern design with details of ancient Andean elements: Jalq’a, Tarabuco and Tihuanacota. All the furniture comes from the Young Craftsmen of the Family Don Bosco, a project in rural areas that develops local boys and girls to top quality carpenters. It took several trips to their remote working places in Peña Colorada (Cochabamba), Escoma and Carabuco (La Paz) to get to know the hard work and dedication of those young people and their Italian and Bolivian teachers and to agree on designs, the use of cedar wood, the carvings and finishing touches. All this effort was motivated by the desire of the owners to put, from the very early idea of the hotel, the seal of social responsibility to their venture.
The garden and courtyard have been restored to its former glory and they are among the most extensive ones in the city. As in the past, we used a lot of natural stone to highlight the ancient relationship between man and nature. The courtyard has a discrete fountain that contributes to the aesthetics but also to the feelings of calm and freshness of the visitors and for its particular simplicity and detail even draws the attention to the passers-by on the street. New are the terraces and viewpoint, which, taking advantage of the location on a steeper part of the city, allow a unique look at the red roofs of the old city and the hills and mountains around. Visitors are highly impressed with the sunset and remain seated until the usual refreshing night temperature encourages them to seek some warmth and coverage.
During construction there have been many surprises, such as: a double wall, beams tied with leather, wood carvings, a carved stone indicating the death of one of the ancient inhabitants, plastering made with manure, partitions made of cane between rooms, and others. To ensure that the building can resist a major number of people, a complete new concrete structure has been integrated, cleverly incorporated in and under the walls of adobe. In this way, now it enables to offer a large conference room and a restaurant on the first floor with views of Mount Bishop, as well as it made it possible to have an additional floor below the original roof, without affecting the height of it.
The new Hotel Villa Antigua, whose name expresses the history of the house and the city, is visited by travellers from elsewhere in the country and abroad, but also by many residents of Sucre who cannot resist the temptation to take a look at the patio to feel the air emitted by the old galleries, traditional windows and doors and by the central stairway that seems to lead till heaven.