Callejon de la 10 Norte 802, Paseo de San Francisco, Barrio el Alto, Puebla, Mexico
In a city filled with mediocre hotels catering to business travelers, Habita Group’s flashy Purificadora stands out like a piece of talavera pottery in a sea of unglazed earthenware.
On the way to La Purificadora hotel from the Puebla, Mexico airport, you’ll first pass through what draws visitors to this city: the Spanish colonial historic district, its streets lined with buildings of gray stone, red brick and adorned with blue talavera tile. Then, across a wide, bustling street, your taxi will turn down what seems like a very unpromising alley. Another quick turn reveals a cobblestone street, floating sounds of music, and fashionable couples, walking with arms wrapped around waists, past the oversized doors of La Purificadora.
Before it was a hotel, this 1884 building was an ice factory. The factory purified the water before it was frozen; it’s that process that gives the hotel its name. In repurposing the building from factory to hotel, Ricardo Legorreta, the celebrated Mexican architect engaged by owners Grupo Habita, took inspiration from water and ice. In doing so, he upended basic hotel concepts like privacy, refuge, and even solid walls. The striking design results have generated a great deal of buzz in the three years since the grand opening, and make no mistake: design is the thing here—even if form occasionally trumps function.
But what a design it is. The far wall of the hotel’s lobby, for instance, vanishes three-quarters of the way up, revealing open air. This exposes and frames an impressive view of Iglesia de San Francisco, which you can admire from sleek contemporary couches in bright royal purple. When the sun goes down, and the church is illuminated, this space becomes is also a bar, warmed by square charcoal fire pits.
The hotel has twenty-six guest rooms, identified by letter, not number. Each room strictly adheres to the hotel’s color scheme, the neutral colors of stone, wood, and black and white, with the only allow accent color a punch of royal purple or blue. Twenty are standard guest rooms, which are long rectangles ending in a wall of windows. A king7ndash;sized bed faces the windows, the other side of the leather headboard is a desk. Behind the desk is a clear glass cube, which is a closet, and it allows an unobstructed view into the bathroom area, sinks against one wall, perpendicular to a stall shower, beside a toilet stall. Both stalls have frosted glass doors, but the doors do not reach all the way to ceiling. This amounts to absolutely no privacy—of sight, sound or smell.
The flooring is black and white tile floors, slightly loose under foot, echoing the softly–secured undulating cobblestones that pave the hotel’s outside areas, while nodding at Puebla’s iconic talavera tiles. There is free Wi–fi, a flat–screen TV, a Bang & Olufsen phone, and a well–stocked minibar, which includes the party hearty combination of mescal, Pringles, Advil, and Pepto-Bismol. The included bath toiletries are by Kiehl’s.
Six rooms deviate from this layout: two are “superior rooms with balcony.” These are the same configuration as the standard guestroom, but have a balcony beyond the window; three are double queen beds with balcony, a layout that provides slightly more bathroom privacy; and then there’s one large “Royal bedroom” with a large terrace.
The third floor has a small gym, but what’s most buzzed about is the Terrace Bar, since that is where you’ll find the hotel pool. It’s a long, narrow lap pool that has a glass side wall facing the tall skinny bar tables. Think of it as a human aquarium.
Descending back to the first floor—itself a vertiginous experience, the floors near the elevator are opaque glass, and the steps of the stairways in between are also glass. There’s the hotel restaurant, separated from the lobby by billowing royal blue curtains. Here are black leather chairs tucked under long rough hewn wooden tables, something of a communal dining experience if the restaurant is crowded. But even an introvert might find it worth the company, because in a city that is known for its excellent food, the meals served here are sophisticated twists on local flavors. You go from a beginning that could include a cream of poblano soup en croute, or chalupas of duck confit and caramelized onion, to an ending that might be a plate of local artisanal cheeses, or a brownie with apple ice cream.
If you choose all of the above, perhaps it’s best to skip the dip in the lap pool during cocktail hour. This hotel is not aimed at the very old or very lumpy.
Web Address: www.lapurificadora.com
Total Number of Rooms: 26
Published rates: $155 - $399
Review by Alison Stein Wellner, photos courtesy of La Purficadora, © Jaime Navarro.