Lima Day 2

Today we met with Arquitecto José Rodriguez Cárdenas, who is in charge of the Historic Center of Lima, to discuss possible projects in the World Heritage center of Lima. Now, most tourists see only the historic center, which includes the Cathedral and those lovely old buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas

Turns out, most of the square was actually built in the 20th century, as we learned, although the feeling is of course from an earlier era. I was also surprised to find that many of the older buildings we saw within the World Heritage district were actually from the 1920s despite their obvious Baroque Colonial influences

If you look closely at the above detail, you note that despite the Baroque organization and basic forms, that much of the detail is actually inspired by local Inka traditions, which only begin to be appreciated in the 1920s. Now, we did find a nice stretch of Deco buildings, I would suspect actually from the 1930s. These are also in Barrios Altos, an area we hope to find some project sites in.


One of the peculiar advantages of Lima as a site for architecture is that it is in the rain shadow of the Andes, which means it basically doesn’t rain. Hence, flat roofs aren’t a problem. In fact, the traditional ornament of the rich overwrought Baroque buildings that characterized the Colonial and neoColonial periods often has trouble staying clean because their is no rain to rinse it off.

Barrios Altos is considered a somewhat rough neighborhood, so despite the World Heritage status there are many buildings which are in rough shape, which translates into potential projects to design, repurpose or add new elements, including not only building elements but urban agriculture, which is where our project began.

Building on Ancash in Barrios Altos

Hard to do a green roof when there is no roof. This is actually a frequent condition, historic buildings that have become merely facades, with the interiors hollowed out in one way or another, usually as homes to more families than should live in such tight quarters, with barely a roof over their heads, or none at all.

note the bamboo lathe. Second floor only – first is adobe
These buildings are actually courtyards, strikingly reminiscent of the sites we deal with in Weishan, Yunnan, at least in volume. Wooden houses with somewhat ornamental facades but usually much more richness and space on the inside than the outside. And where there are courtyards, there is potential for urban agriculture. But it isn’t happening yet. What you do get a lot of are parking lots behind these facades.

You also get a fair amount of deterioration, not from rain, but from termite-like insects, who are doing a number on this edificio historico near the central market in Barrios Altos:


The ones that have been restored look great. Here is a nice group along Plaza Italia in Barrios Altos, before the neighborhood gets even rougher.


Just around the corner is this police building, which is a weird combination of sort of LaDouxian Mannerism and Art Deco.

And then of course there are more of the famous Lima Balconies. They even had an “Adopt a Balcony” program that led to many of these wooden wonders being preserved. Here are a few from Barrios Altos, followed by the longest one in town, close to the Plaza de Armas.




We learned a lot about the urban plan of Lima, which began as a royal city, a kind of walled treasury that had no industry to speak of. Huge religious foundations were and are a key part of the city, although many were lost with the redevelopment of the city after the demolition of the walls around 1870 and the creation of radial Parisian-style avenues that eliminated the impression of the city’s feudal origins. Large monastic and convent complexes survive – it seems there is another Baroque church around every corner, although this convent was converted into a shopping center, which is actually a really interesting architectural encounter, at the edge of Barrios Altos on Ucayali:




Our host Gunther Merzthal has been amazingly generous with his time, gracious and intelligent and turns out to be a brilliant networker as well. We didn’t get to see the Mayor today, but we hope to tomorrow. More view of old Lima:


What? You didn’t think Lima had a Chinatown? Every city has a Chinatown. Actually there is a fascinating history of ethnic diversity in Peru, and the Chinese and Japanese are a big part of it. One final view of old Lima to join the promise of “hasta mañana…”

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