By Ashley Rogers
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the revival and renaissance of real estate in downtown Cuenca, you may have heard of ISAM (Inmobiliaria San Alberto Magno.)
If you haven’t, you’re invited to get an up close and personal tour of this award-winning development company’s latest project — Casas del Ciprés – at an Open House Tuesday, October 29 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Ciprés, on Calle Larga 18-63 y Luis Cordero.
The daylong event will feature tours of 8 to 10 condos that will be opened to the public, displays of interior design work from top Cuenca firms including Atelier and Nanis Concept, and snacks and drinks provided by local purveyors throughout the building.
Information on ISAM’s highly anticipated next project — Casa del Huerto (Orchard House) will also be revealed during this celebration of the best of El Centro downtown living.
Casas del Ciprés features 24 residential apartments and three commercial stores and recently received the prestigious Fray Jose Maria Vargas Architectural Award for excellence in architecture from the Cuenca Municipality.
In 2019 Casas del Ciprés also won first prize for “Best Design” in Ecuador at the XXI Pan American Architecture Biennial in Quito and received a second prize in the International category.
ISAM’s projects have revolutionized the concept of downtown living in Cuenca and have been featured in prestigious design and architectural publications including The New York Times, Revista Habitar, Casas,Vistazo, Construcción & Diseño, ARQ. and the book 1000x Architecture of the Americas, among others.
Founded in 2007, ISAM began when a group of friends decided to move downtown themselves. “My wife and I have been connected to Old Town for over 20 years,” says ISAM Co-Founder Juan Heredia. “Our offices were always here and our social and cultural lives were also in El Centro. So 12 years ago we decided to buy a property and move into the city center.
“During our first years living here, we found that other people had the same positive feelings and love for El Centro, however there weren’t any modern apartments or offerings available at the time.” says Heredia. “This is what prompted us and a group of colleagues to start ISAM.”
Their first major project, Casa San Sebastian on Simon Bolivar, was featured in The New York Times, “Great Homes and Destinations” section. The success of this building led to four more ambitious downtown residential projects and their work will continue with the new, Casas del Huerto on Beningo Malo, scheduled to begin construction next month.
Says Alexis Schulman, Director of Surreal Estudio, the architectural design firm for ISAM’s projects, “El Centro Històrico is one of the best parts of the city to live in. It has all the services, it is very well connected to the rest of the city, and it is the scene of a tremendous cultural life, not to mention the beauty of its architecture. The history, the scale of the buildings and streets, the commerce, and of course the people who work and live there make this part of the city unique and ideal to have a home.”
Adds Schulman, “We believe in the importance of bringing housing into the context of a historic cultural city center because it’s the only way that a city can stay truly alive. Housing is necessary to avoid a UNESCO World Heritage Site City from becoming a museum filled just with tourists, forgetting about the importance of ordinary life and the social and commercial relationships that make a city come alive.”
“Over the last few decades residents had begun to abandon the center of Cuenca emigrating to the outskirts of the city”, adds Heredia. “We hope to reactivate the area and encourage people to return to the lifestyle and quality of life downtown living provides.”
“Renovating a historical property is also rediscovering it,” says Schulman. “Conserving the history or the atmosphere of a place, while introducing a contemporary way of life is an architectural challenge that we enjoy, but it’s also a very important contribution to the maintenance of all life in this UNESCO Heritage zone.”
But as Heredia points out, building residential projects in the UNESCO World Heritage Site center has many challenges, demands and red tape. “There are many restrictions enforced by the municipality, and there are strict rules and regulations surrounding patrimonial properties, as well as demanding logistical and technical requirements that must be followed. These make our projects more costly than in the new town and also less profitable for us, but it’s our passion so that’s why we keep doing it.
“We’ve thought about building in the newer parts of town, but we always end up coming back downtown,” concludes Heredia. “This is where our heart and our experience lie, and where we have a strong and positive reputation among our clients. This is truly home.”
For more information about ISAM’s Casas del Ciprés Open House, Tuesday, October 29 from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., please contact Ashley Rogers at Ecuador at Your Service at Ashley@ecuadoratyourservice.com.