A conversation with the creative minds behind Hotel Indigo’s striking design and style.
By: Liam McLean Photos By: Dav Anmed
At the corner of Kansas and East Main, in the still transforming chrysalis of downtown El Paso, you will find the latest stride in our fair cities inexorable march towards contemporary redefinition. The Hotel Indigo, occupying what was once the Downtowner Motor Inn (subsequently exchanging hands through the years) stands as a monument to a fairly recent and exploding facet of downtown El Paso, its urban renewal with a focus on hip, yet culturally aware locations and contemporary event destinations.
Adding a voice to this chorus, International Hotel Groups (IHG) brings its Hotel Indigo brand to the city, complete with the chains signature policy of location specific stylings, decor and presentation. The El Paso Hotel Indigo is no different, and embraces the Sun City’s unique mixtures of cultural diversities. From the moment you enter the austere ground floor lobby, to the instant the elevator doors open to the 5th floor and the whole building seemingly opens itself up to you with a large, airy reception area framed by views of the highly impressive pool lounge and ‘Circa 1963’ bar. Everything is separated by walls of glass giving the impression of one large open floor with little division and a flood of the afternoon’s indirect light.
This impressive presentation of El Paso’s Hotel Indigo was conceptualized and realized by a very talented pool of architects, designers and local artisans who condensed so much of what makes El Paso special and unique, and injected it into a familiar, yet wonderfully contemporary destination.
A CURIOSO interior design representative explains how colorful abstract art can be found throughout the Hotel and how a priority was made to reach out to local artisans to create the individual pieces.
Charles Austin of Charles Austin design studio (CAds) expands on this by pointing out how the three dimensional mosaic tile wall at the Kansas St. entrance is an abstract representation of the geometric patterns found in Mexican folk art and how, to match the dominant material of the hotel structure, the tiles were handmade of cast concrete then died with several vibrant color pigments.
Zeke Peña, of Loco Workshop, describes the mural on the Circa 1963 terrace as referencing the beautiful landscape and sky found here in the Chihuahuan desert, and how the backdrop for the mural pulls colors from this desert environment and uses them as backdrop. A young Latina woman is portrayed in the mural that is looking out over the open patio bar toward the mountains and sunset. Her hair is decorated with flowers and a subtle homage to the iconic Frida Kahlo. His idea for the mural was to make something colorful, accessible and celebratory.
Joel Martinez of EME design studio: “When we were tasked with creating murals for the interior of the suites, it was important to keep the essence of the El Paso region as our main priority. Vintage photographs of El Paso and Juarez convey a strong sense of nostalgia, and when paired with bold and bright geometric lines, the past seems to come to life again. People don’t realize how important both cities are to each other, so we decided to create one mural on each wall to mimic the border town experience. As the viewer, you are caught in the middle of a visual story between both places. Imagery contains historic references, local iconography and even regional slang. The pieces communicate the rich history, folklore and essence of the region through an abstract collage of visual and colorful images.”
The aptly named ‘Circa 1963’ bar lives up to its name with a pseudo mod-meets-contemporary design ethos that positively oozes a certain type of comfortable cool. One could almost catch a glimpse of Audrey Hepburn sipping a martini or Donald Draper leaning over the pool lounge railing, enjoying a cigarette.
CURIOSO: “The fact that the bar opens up to the Franklin mountains to the north and out over the pool deck towards the characterful skyline of downtown, all the way to Ciudad Juárez to the south is very unique. No other hotel in the city can offer such a unique perspective of this space. In our view there was a void of truly memorable social spaces in El Paso that embrace the natural landscape and the reinvigorating cityscape of downtown, and that we believe is what makes Circa 1963 so appealing.”
Just a few relaxed strides from the bar is the lovely rooftop pool lounge, complete with pergola covered seating, along with rows of custom, rustic wood framed comfy couches. The space emanates this very relaxing and effortless Zen-like vibe (contrasting starkly against the hustling downtown streets only five floors below), which is only reinforced by the gentle, ambient sound of trickling water from the pool waterfall and the river stone concrete sculpture fountain. (Concrete sculptures by Paul Oglesby.)
CURIOSO: “Creating the right energy through design is crucial. The most intentional which might not be as apparent was the decision to locate the guest check-in on the fifth floor. Although it is only a few floors, arriving to the hotel and traveling up to the lobby creates a sense of anticipation, of excitement, and above all, of curiosity. That is what hotel guests are seeking, a hotel experience that feels unique and this uniqueness is very much at the core of the Hotel Indigo brand.”
On what sets a stay at Hotel Indigo apart from other competing hotels-
CURIOSO: “A primary design driver was to make guests truly feel that they were in a hotel in El Paso. Firmly rooted in the downtown neighborhood. For example, the wood clad columns throughout the lobby come from the boxcars that crisscross the city; the denim upholstery makes reference to the fact that El Paso used to be the denim producing capital of the world. The incorporation of all the creative talents of local graphic artists, painters, sculptors, furniture makers all contribute to make the hotel indigo unique.”
On what’s on the horizon for the Hotel Indigo-
CAds: “Due to the demand for multi-function space, the owners are considering expanding the pool deck area to add a large green house style indoor/outdoor banquet hall.”
In this author’s humble opinion, after spending my lifetime to this point in the Sun City, I felt a tug at my heartstrings for this city of mine as I sipped my drink, watching the sunset from the fifth floor deck. Breeze in hair, accompanied by the quiet chorus of the streets below and the ambient trickle of the fountains, I smile as I bite the olive.