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Meet the Mexico Hotel Entrepreneurs Cultivating the Next Generation of Global Design Stars

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Today, Grupo Habita consists of 15 hotels: The Robey in Chicago, a total of five in Mexico City, and nine in other parts of Mexico. Although properties such as New York’s Hotel Americano and the Boca Chica Hotel in Acapulco are no longer affiliated with the group, they’ve also left their mark on the talents they employed.

Indeed, Boca Chica—which opened in 2010—was the group’s first collaboration with Frida Escobedo, one of Mexico’s most influential architects of the moment and the designer of London’s Serpentine Pavilion in 2018. “It was my first hospitality project and a great opportunity for a young architect,” she says. She is currently working on a 10-room hotel in a late 19th-century French-style townhouse in the colonial Mexican town of Puebla, which will be Grupo Habita’s second hotel in the city.

Rafael Micha, who has been the marketing force of the group helping land the properties in the pages of design and travel magazines, explains the formula of their success. Part of their winning formula comes down to the Spanish/Latin American concept of vecindad, which literally translates as “neighborhoodness,” though he uses the phrase more in the sense of creating a community or collection of appealing amenities.

Casa Habita in Guadalajara by Dimore Studio

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The hotels are not simply cool places to sleep, they are destinations where guests and residents alike come to party, eat, and experience the local culture. “The last year has shown us that a traveler can book any lodging, but they realize it’s all about the amenities. They want a rooftop terrace, they want to sit in a lobby with a mural by Manuel Rodríguez Lozano [found in the group’s Downtown hotel]. Grupo Habita is about becoming a local upon arrival,” Micha explains.

La Purificadora in Puebla

Undine Prohl

He gives most of the credit for assembling the creative teams behind the projects to Carlos Couturier. “He is always looking for the next It architect,” Micha says. “We have managed to work with the very best of the best. Some were already established, like Ricardo Legorreta [who designed La Purificadora, the group’s first hotel in Puebla] but most were early in their careers.”

India Mahdavi

Photo: Paolo Roversi

Among the latter, Micha cites India Mahdavi, who designed the interiors for the Condesa DF hotel in Mexico City. “She had no hotel experience except for the Townhouse Hotel Miami, but after Condesa, things exploded for her,” he says. The vibrant turquoise bar at the hotel remains one of the signature spaces by the designer called the Queen of Color by AD. “We have seen that same path with many people we have worked with,” Micha continues. “When Joseph Dirand designed Habita Monterrey [in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey], he was a young and very much under-the-radar, low-profile architect. Now he is one of the most sought-after architects of interiors in the world.”

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