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Detour to Inspiration

Published July 24, 2021 By Fernanda Cardoso

As a designer or creator of experiences, be it retail, hospitality, workspace, or any other space really, finding the spark needed to draw on for the next environment you design might mean taking a detour. I find that traveling to unexpected places usually surprises me with a new way to look at things. Translating those experiences into the next project or design is the ability the designer needs to elevate and keep their work fresh.

One of my greatest detours came over a decade ago when I discovered San Miguel de Allende. Although I have lived in Mexico City my whole life, and San Miguel is only 3 hours away, for some reason I had never visited. This Baroque/Neoclassical City is well known, and hardly known at the same time. Whether you have been there a thousand times or it is your first visit, it is always full of surprises. Many artists and students from all over the world come here to study art and architecture. But if you travel here you will also find eclectic, unusual retail, five-star hotels, global cuisine, festivals, parades, art galleries and more. 

Mainly you will find a city of experiences.  If you are an architect, designer, or artist this is a must visit.  You will either take home the experience and use it to enhance your next project, or you will never leave.

As with most countries, there are cities that are well known around the world and provide the stereotypical idea of what people think a country and its people are all about.  These are always the biggest cities, so for Mexico it is, of course, Mexico City. 

But, we make the mistake sometimes believing that only a big city can provide the key to what customers want. We think if it is not happening in a metropolis it cannot really matter, or that any good trend starts in a bigger market and is then translated to the smaller areas of the country.

Since my first visit to San Miguel I return as often as I can and have seen many changes as big brands have invested here, including the hotels Rosewood and Live Aqua. There is a huge choice of restaurants, with food from all over the world prepared by renowned chefs. This creates a city full of a variety of dining experiences comparable to some of the most famous cities in the world. And in this walking city, every street has at least one gallery, and the culture of retail as art is showcased literally around every turn.  But for all the new, the history of the town is not gone. The marrying of the past and the future is one of the things that continues to make this city an unending source of inspiration.

One of the most exciting examples of a brand growing to create an un-paralleled experience is Doce 18 Concept House. Here, a historic renovation of an iconic property created a space where you can sleep, eat, and play. Art galleries, champagne bars, a gourmet bakery, great restaurants and fine shopping are all together in one contemporary space. The building has maintained its original roots while adapting to a modern and fashion-oriented clientele.  All over the city you can find old and new combining to excite, inspire and delight.

I have drawn on the ambiance, the beauty, the sights and sounds of this city many times in the last 10 years to infuse color and culture into my designs, to create an experience where one did not exist before. Is there a city near you that you may have overlooked, a destination you have been meaning to visit?  Take a detour. You may find inspiration where you least expect it.