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A Pop-Up Guesthouse in Brazil: Maria Santa Teresa

Cathy Erway

For a city so full of life—cutting-edge art, music, cuisine and breathtaking vistas—Rio has few hotels to house its many guests. This will surely become evident when Brazil hosts the World Cup this summer. In anticipation of the throngs of soccer-loving fans from around the world—as well as all those eager to immerse themselves in the vibrant cultural landscape of the city—Design Hotels group is opening a pop-up guesthouse that will operate only one year, in the edgy neighborhood of Santa Teresa. By improving on the space of an existing house, its creators are embracing the innovative, sustainable ethos so well-known to the city, while preserving traditional flavor. After all the parties and matches of 2014 have been played, the guesthouse will make way for an entirely new hotel—one that’s meant to stay.

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A scenic view of Rio

We spoke with Jeremy Silverman, a project developer for Maria Santa Teresa, for more details.

Zady: Where is the guesthouse located?

JS: Maria Santa Teresa is located at 163 Rua Aprazível in Santa Teresa—a very special neighborhood which climbs up one of the many hillsides of Rio de Janeiro. Santa Teresa was originally home for many of the villas that wealthy Portuguese colonists used between the 19th and early-20th centuries. Today it is one of the most visited areas of the city due to its picturesque winding streets, bohemian vibe, lively bars and cafés, and the panoramic view of the city.

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Jeremy Silverman, Project Developer

Zady: What inspired you to open the guesthouse?

JS: This project was initiated by a German man [Hans-Georg Näder] who spends a lot of time in South America during the winter. He often visits Rio, and fell in love with the neighborhood and, specifically, with the view from the pool terrace of the property. I spent a lot of time in Rio during college, and was thrilled at the chance to manage a hospitality project there. The vibe of the city is so laid-back and infectious that it allows guests to unwind and join the natural rhythm of the streets and beach.

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The original intention of the hotel was to rebuild this beautiful building with Brazil’s Marcio Kogan. However, when we looked at the bigger picture and saw the upcoming 2016 World Cup as an opportunity to share the house and view with guests, we decided rather to keep the original structure as a pop-up hotel.

Zady: What style is its design?

JS: The design is very much a mixture of local influences and European design, with a focus on comfort. We were very deliberate about investing in the components of the hotel that would create the greatest added value; high-end beds, luxury bath amenities, great entertainment systems, world-class wines and champagne, etc., and forgo some elements that are simply not relevant to the majority of guests. The house itself has a typical 1960s Brazilian architectural style on five different levels.

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Zady: Who are you working with on the project?

JS: The owner of the project is Professor Hans-Georg Näder, who is the owner of Ottobock. I am responsible for the development and operations of the property. The interior designer for the temporary project is Anja Müller, who is known for her residential interiors in Germany.

Zady: How is this project like or unlike any other projects you’ve worked on before?

JS: Developing a property which will only be used for a short period of time was a unique challenge because it really forced us to prioritize which areas of the property and guest experience deserve the highest investment. Also, we wanted to be able to use some elements of the “temporary” hotel with the second-phase property (which will be built later), so our collection of art and antiques (military telescopes from the 1920s, for example, with which to enjoy the view) have been selected with this in mind. The goal was to preserve the tropical funky atmosphere of the house. In the past I have worked on traditional hotels like Hotel Americano in New York. I also worked at Casa Tua, in Miami Beach, which is not dissimilar to Maria Santa Teresa in its “homey” atmosphere and boutique concept.

Zady: How many guests will stay there during the 2014 World Cup?

JS: The World Cup will be a unique time for Rio hotels because there is a significant undersupply of rooms in the city. We have many requests for people who want just one room as well as groups who wish to book the entire villa exclusively for the month. So for the moment, we are analyzing how we can operate our business most effectively but also allow as many guests as possible to experience the hotel and our event spaces.

Zady: Are you a soccer fan? If so, who are you rooting for?

JS: After living in Germany for the last seven years, it would have been impossible to not be at least somewhat of a convert. Seeing a Brazilian victory in Rio (where the championship game will take place) would be amazing, but at this point I would say that I am a Germany fan.

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Zady: What’s your favorite hotel in the world, and why?

JS: My favorite city hotel is definitely Hotel Costes in Paris. It is legendary place, and Mr. Costes and his team have created an environment that is unlike anywhere else in the world; the smell of the place, the service and the interiors are all so unique but never trendy. Of course it does not hurt that nearly all guests are beautiful and stylish. My favorite resort is La Reserve in Ramatuelle, France. In my opinion, the resort is one of a few places that can justify its obscenely high prices based on the fact that three days of relaxation there is the equivalent of five or six in another resort.

Zady: Brazil is known for its sustainable lifestyle. How did that influence you and your design process for this guesthouse?

JS: It can be challenging to integrate cutting-edge sustainable technology into old buildings like ours, so the primary concept of sustainability was focused on supporting local partners and the surrounding community. We focused on utilizing the top Brazilian organic soap company (Granado) in the guest rooms; our breakfast is sourced from the local neighborhood market daily; our staff comes primarily from the immediate neighborhood. Additionally, we have spent considerable investment to redevelop our garden and landscaping to provide the optimal conditions for the indigenous flora to thrive. The second phase of the hotel will most definitely take advantage of the latest in sustainable design.