At Kobu, we are constantly on the lookout for unique properties with incredible stories. This is why we have created a new journal piece, called ‘The Process’, where we will explore redevelopments of fantastic properties, with their owners. To kick this off, we’ve chosen Fixie Lofts, a wonderful 16th century building that has been masterfully restored by a fascinating dynamic duo; Meyling Wetto, and José Luis Mejías. We spoke to them about everything from their background, to the challenges and philosophy behind their impressive repurposing of a building covered in historic elements.
Meyling, an advertising regional director, and José, an economist, photographer, and social anthropologist have turned their hands to Caribbean creativity, in the form of Fixie Lofts. In a wonderful coming together of creative ambition, they left Spain with their daughter in search of a new project, leading them to the historic district of Santo Domingo in 2017, where they said it was clear the area was transforming. This was a revival of the once-bustling historic district, to a seductive fancy district that was quiet but enchanting, in their own words.
It was here they found the perfect building to house their minimalist retreat, after months of looking for the perfect location. Drawing on his earlier experience of a historic revamp at Plaza Mayor in Madrid, José instantly knew there was “magic and value”. He was drawn in by the 30-inch-wide earth walls standing amongst historic rubble. In the process, they unearthed a property with a treasure in the back, coming in the form of ancient arches and walls in ruins. This supplied the foundations for Fixie Lofts to transform into the architecturally unique accommodation it is today, keeping its historic form and unique elements.
When speaking to José about their desire to keep original elements of the building, he said the challenge was keeping the original walls, whilst being able to offer guests comfortable modern spaces. During their revamp, the couple discovered the archway and walls belonged to the adjacent San Nicolás de Bari, the first hospital built in the Americans. This added a historicity to Fixie Lofts found nowhere else, due to the hospital starting construction in 1503, and working as such for almost 400 years. It was clear that these attaching elements had to stay, as they also marked a building enlargement, which happened during the ‘French Occupation’ in the early 1800s.
When José and Meyling bought this townhouse, it had no floors or solid roofs. A simple tin roof was giving protection from the elements, which aided its preservation. To replace this, José explains how they used thermal insulating and lightweight panels constructed of expanded polystyrene. These were used to ensure the surviving structure didn’t have an overbearing load. With this, all walls were re-plastered with lime mortar, instead of cement, which is a clever way of retaining traditional aesthetics, and effective thermal regulation.
Because of José’s “less is more” approach to this development, Fixie Lofts took on larger costs, to restore the building to its deserved form, instead of replacing it. As a result, the building has vernacular and passive architectural principles throughout, like perforated doors, skylights, and ventilation turbines in the bathrooms. With this, 18 mahogany beams from the roof had been recycled to make the front Caribbean-style white doors. A feature that stands as a masterclass in repurposing materials.
Throughout, guests can expect a carefully curated interior, with a few cleverly left-out elements. For example, the hybrid model spanning boutique hotel and private villa is without a restaurant and front desk. To enter, one must input a code, providing exclusivity that is completely unmatched in the area. This exclusivity is built on with a pool akin to a Roman bath, and communal areas shared only by the guests of this low occupancy dwelling. Because of all of this, the minimalist experience of Fixie Lofts, with clear urban intentions, cleverly addresses the needs of the independent, conscious traveller.