Whether it's because of the impressive sillar-stone walls, the astounding barrel-vaulted ceilings or its location in the colonial heart of the white city of Arequipa, CIRQA always seems to be humming with history. The newly Relais & Châteaux member flaunts its singular connection to its adjacent neighbour- the San Agustin Church - in both its architecture and contemporary design. Brains behind the unique concept and setting are CEO and owner Ignacio Masias, expert designer Sandra Masias, and architects Stephanie Chang and Daniel Cisneros. They brought a design to life that is now turning heads all around the world winning already two prestigious awards. To get a better look behind those sillar-stone walls, we had a chat with Ignacio Masias.
What inspired CIRQA’s design?
CIRQA’s historic bond with San Agustin church and with the city makes it one of Arequipa’s most emblematic properties. Inspired by this heritage and the spirit of Arequipa we wanted to create a design that values the local architecture and history. Arequipa has UNESCO World Heritage status for a reason, there is no need to modernise and knock down old buildings. The existing architecture, heritage and culture is what attracts, intrigues and inspires. Arequipenean have every right to be proud about that legacy.
So like a respectful reference to the past?
Yes, and like a balance between the old and new, light and dark, divine and pagan. CIRQA balances between the typical elements found in original local architecture and new elements with contemporary materials and symmetrical distribution.
What parts of the property remain untouched?
More than untouched, we placed them centre-stage. It’s high-vaulted ceilings, powerful walls, arches and columns were restored as carefully as possible and form the timeless nucleus of the property. Original historic features are a tangible link to the past and tell a thousand stories, highlighting them is essential.
What kind of materials were used to complement the original architecture then?
We used the existing sillar-stone architecture as a starting point and added other local materials like dark wood, iron elements, lots of glass and mirrors. Focussing on the balance between dark and light, the use of lights in the rooms and the black steel-framed windows also add to the contemporary twist we wanted to add to the property.
What about decoration?
We selected furniture and accessories that have a touch of elegance and sophistication, and most of all create comfort for our guests while adding a contemporary touch. We wanted to highlight the original features wherever possible, so antique details are complemented by a neutral décor reflecting Arequipa’s and its surroundings. Modern bathrooms with sleek contemporary lines and sometimes large mirror feature include all the necessary amenities.
What did you like most about the renovation process?
Apart from the environmental benefits that come with renovating and repurposing a property instead of constructing a new one; CIRQA revalues and honours a place with centuries-old cultural and historical heritage. You see all too often how that legacy is overlooked and denigrated, although it can be so valuable and can complement the needs of modern discerning travellers perfectly.
In addition, CIRQA is the first of its kind in Arequipa. The parador provides the kind of service and personalized attention that luxury travellers were looking for, but could not yet find in the White City of Arequipa. We aimed to open up an incredible Peruvian destination for discerning travellers and since we have already attracted lots of different international media such as Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. I’m proud to say we’re doing our part to promote Arequipa as an international luxury destination.
To read more about CIRQA's rich colonial history and travel to Arequipa, read our other blog posts.