Panama has got much more to it than a canal and the straw hats so beloved of portly middle-aged cricket spectators. Home to historically important shipping ports, a separator of oceans, a connector of continents, and blessed with some lovely colonial architecture, the Panama Isthmus should be on everyone’s to-do list, and those indomitable hipsters at Ace Hotel have recently opened a swell place to stay in the capital Panama City.
American Trade Hotel and Hall occupies a neo-classical building from 1917 in the UNESCO World Heritage designated Casco Viejo district. The property has been under the protective ownership of Conservatorio since 2007, but before that it was the base of operations for a street gang who used its height as a watchtower from which to control the neighbourhood. Casco Viejo was one of the city’s swankiest areas when it first sprang up, but the middle and upper classes moved out during the middle of the last century during the dictatorships, and it succumbed to poverty and crime. Now it is enjoying a renaissance, with a cosmopolitan feel and a large community of creatives moving in.
Atelier Ace, Conservatorio, Los Angeles studio Commune Design and local architects Hache Uve put their heads together for the renovation project at Ace’s American Trade Hotel. Luckily much of the building’s original features have survived despite the tumultuous periods, and they are retained along with an eclectic mix of 19th Century styles which recall the colonial glory days.