Designer Bruce Bananto worked in the offices of Jed Johnson, David Easton and Thierry Despont before heading his own eponymous firm in New York. Deciding to keep a few faithful clients in his portfolio he began to work from Merida. While renting a house on the Camino Real de Campeche he became curious about a large colonial ruin across the street. Soon he became the owner of the large lot of land where the once grand home had stood for 300 years. It was not likely to stand another 30. The ruin had crumbling walls and a caving ceiling. Full grown trees filled the rooms and emerged over the top of the roof. Bruce’s recent experience restoring rooms in an eight hundred year old castle in Tuscany gave him the confidence to take on a more personal project. His classically trained eye, refined from working on historical rooms in museums like the Getty in Los Angeles gave him the vision to see what a colonial ruin could become in the right hands.
Fast forward five years.
When you open the heavy door and enter the house, the temperature immediately drops. Soon your eyes adjust in the shady entrance where a bougainvillea arbor overhangs the patio. In the next room a long gallery is the main salon for the old house. The ancient walls are covered with murals of the sacred ceiba tree. Bruce has created a formal seating area at one end with a large dining table in the middle for meals shared with friends and family. Stepping outside onto the equally grand loggia you overlook a garden which, like the murals, seems to have always been there. In fact the 15-meter palms were seedlings planted in 2015. An ample kitchen is off the loggia and opens on to the gallery as well. There is a smaller dining area for family meals which are just as often taken at the table for 8 in the garden.
The house remains cool due to the thick stone walls and the very high ceilings. Windows and doors open to small gardens and patios. The house was designed to maximize the outdoor spaces to create air flow throughout the property. The three bedrooms all feature queen size beds and are air conditioned. The bedroom at the front of the house has two queen beds that flank the entrance. The master bedroom is at the end of the kitchen wing and overlooks a little private garden anchored by a coconut palm that shades the palapa. The third bedroom is in the Maya Palapa that overlooks the pool and the arcade of royal palms. The preservation agency would not allow a second floor to built over the loggia and so Bruce recently purchased a house at the back of the property. Here will be a guest house or master suite in the near future with and entrance onto the street to the west.
At the end of the block is the Parque de la Ermita and small colonial church dedicated to Santa Isabel, the mother of John the Baptist whose church is three blocks away past the old city gate. Ermita is dedicated to Our Lady of the Good Journey as it was the refuge for travelers to and from Campeche when Merida was a vice royalty of Spain. Behind the church is a door that opens onto a botanical garden. Ermita remains a quiet residential neighborhood with some of the city’s oldest houses, many still untouched by the wealth of the renovations made in the 19th and early 20th century. I have three other houses within a couple of blocks of La Loggia de la Ermita.