Posts Tagged ‘Lima’

Progress in Lima

January 12, 2012

We have been in Lima for a week now with 15 students from our Cultural Futures: Lima class and it has been very successful. We just completed presenting our ideas and designs that were developed during the class and during the last week of hard work in the Municipalidad, which is located right in the center of town on the lovely Plaza des Armas.

The main plaza from the roof of City Hall
With the aid of Gunther Merzthal, the city’s urban agriculture expert, we presented several projects to various agencies and officials. One project we developed during the last semester and revised based on feedback from the Department of the Environment, which is the primary contact in the city administration for our SAIC class. This was a green roof for the City Hall in Lima. They likely were aware of Chicago City Hall’s famed green roof and our students came up with a design that not only integrated social and educational functions but also remained within the sight lines required by the landmarks agency, ProLima, which oversees development in the Cercado, the center of Lima which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site some two decades ago.

Municipal Building – the idea is you can’t see the green roof from the street

Staircase in City Hall
We also presented two new concepts we had developed during the semester, one a “green neighborhood” in Barrios Altos that combined urban agricultural production, new residential units on upper stories, educational programming and potential conversion of behind-the-facade parking into productive green space. The highlight of the green neighborhood design, and the one that excited our hosts in Lima the most, was a redevelopment of this large Brutalist building that houses the municipal market with a large a diverse green roof “techo verde”

The highrise portion is just being used for storage by the merchants in this busy inner-city commercial area, but was once residential. This idea caught everyone’s attention right away and we spent a good portion of this week brainstorming a series of uses for the building from restaurants and food courts to thermal solar units and of course green roofs, made easier by the .5 meter square concrete beams that support the market section. We rendered a series of images of the complex and they want to apply it to other markets and buildings in Lima.

We also presented a huaca-inspired setback design for a building on a street called Ancash, also in Barrios Altos. Here the city had proposed saving a facade and adding a new 4-story building on the back of the site. We proposed a series of ziggurat-stepped gardens that would actually increase the amount of space for apartments without disturbing the historic sight lines of the original facade.


We also began work this week on several new projects. One is a garden of native Peruvian plants to be incorporated into a regional park, Huiracocha. Another is a green roof for a new housing project, Canete 100, not too far from downtown. A third is the design of iconic but functional market stalls for organic farmer’s markets, like this one we visited in Miraflores:

So I snapped this picture on Sunday and then on Tuesday we go tour the Agricultural University at La Molina and guess who is leading the tour – the same guy, Daniel!

We are also looking at the design of a nocturnal garden at the Teatro Blanca Varela in the beautiful 1929 Parque La Reserva, with its lighted fountain displays. The park includes some lovely original buildings, monuments and sculptures.


And then there is of course the dramatic coastal cliffs, replete with surfers and shopping centers…

Our group has been aided immeasurably by my Global Heritage Fund colleague, Alejandro Camino, D.C., who also maintains a plant museum in Cusco we hope to visit next week. Kudos to my colleagues Frances Whitehead and Douglas Pancoast and of course to the hardworking students in the class and on the trip: Michelle Yuan, Laura Crane, Cassie Rogg, Veronika Diaz, Brooke Ingram,Samantha Alaimo, Sia Khorrami, Danielle Potts, Emily Wallrath, DJ Catrow, Karin Kuroda,Duane Hagerty, Marie Socha,Julie Hess, Dina Khodorkovskaya and Sarah Tietje.

Lima Day 5

June 12, 2011

Today we found two more huacas and lots of nice buildings and parks, mostly in the swank San Isidro neighborhood, which is next to Miraflores. We started by getting into the concrete parabolic church we saw yesterday (see post below from yesterday) then we wandered along Avenida Camino Real (so I had Tennessee Williams on the brain) and saw this lovely highrise with hanging gardens terraces (and attendant brick issues)

It was Douglas and Erika and I again, walking about 8 km before lunch and another 3-4 after. We found one more cool cantilever building before….

we stumbled on Huaca Huallamarca, a much smaller huaca and made with roughly rounded adobe bricks, simpler than our elaborate friend from yesterday.

The huaca had a lot of lights and I dreamed about having a cocktail party on one of the roofs around the huaca when it was lit up at night, which must be a sight to see…

Here you can see the rounded bricks. This one also dates from the first half of the first millenium, and then was used as a cemetery by the Wari, not unlike Huaca Paclluna from yesterday.

Lotsa embassies in these nice quiet neighborhoods, even more quiet because it was Sunday. We wandered over to Lince to the Parque Mariscal Castilla, which had both an oncological installation and an ecological installation…

Oh, that reminds me: latest trend: modern dance in the parks, in large groups. This is like tai chi used to be in the old days, or ballroom dance at 6 AM in Chinese cities a decade ago. The ones by the Oncological institute (next to the ecological pond) were a bit more hip-hop.

We then wandered in search of lunch, but thanks to modernist planning, we were esconced in miles of residential, which made for some felicitous architectural encounters, like….this Tudor

This fire academy in appropriately fire engine red..

Colonial, Renaissance, Deco – something for everyone….


And these buildings with typical Lima balconies, the first I saw outside the Cercado…

Then some Ceviche for lunch

Then through this cool section of San Isidro that is all organized around parks, sort of modernist superblock planning except the parks are public and usually have some playground equipment and a statue or two. And they are surrounded by lovely buildings. So here are some examples from our walk:



I loved these modernist ones near Parque Pio XII (despite how I might feel about him…)

Shoot, Arquitectonica was even doing one.

These park developments were quite fascinating and Douglas and I are thinking about making them part of the students’ study. Fascinating investigations into urbanism, architecture, scale, use and so forth are possible. Sometimes there are blank walls that support urban environments, and sometimes they don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all, and perhaps there is no rule that admits no exception. At any rate, this city is a good place to ask those questions.


this one totally made me think Mies in Krefeld


what if liebeskind did a park?


cool canted cantilevers on angamos oeste

Is that gorgeous or what?!

One hour until departure. Pero yo regreso….

Lima Day 4

June 12, 2011

Only a half day of work today, and most of it wasn’t me, but Frances and Douglas working with Nicholas designing a small demonstration urban agricultural installation for Parque La Muralla. This afternoon Douglas and I went with Erika (SAIC alum and translator) for a walk through Miraflores, the neighborhood we are staying in. Despite its relative safety, EVERYTHING is gated and security camera-ed and barbed wire-d.

We went to Huaca Pucllana, one of many ancient pyramids that dot the city. This was built by the Lima culture sometime in the first half of the first millenium AD and then occupied by the Wari, who came from Ayacucho, long before the Inca (who came from Cuzco).

This is what it looks like when you encounter it, just a big mud hill in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. But then you see the unmistakable signs of anastylosis….

Turns out this vertical brick construction is fairly unique, and an amazing amount of it has been subject to anastylosis since its was “uncovered” and protected from the motocross enthusiasts 30 years ago in 1981. It is hard to imagine how long it took to put it back together.


It is an impressive pyramid, and the selective reconstruction works pretty well. You can even see places where the original construction survived, which is fairly distinct from the reconstruction, as shown here:

There is a large plaza on one side of the pyramid which was used for a market in the prehistoric area and weddings and other events in the modern era. Here you can see evidence of wedge-shaped columns of vertical bricks that act like a sort of PreColumbian Warren truss for the long span of the adobe walls. This is the sort of thing us architecture geeks go for big time….

Of course one of the great advantages of adobe construction, and of this vertical brick system is its resistance to seismic events, which happen A LOT around here. But this stuff has been sitting pretty for over 1,500 years. In terms of the reconstruction (which I suppose is not strictly speaking anastylosis, since they apparently made some new mud bricks), I was interested to see this series of grid lines laid out in string for a section that was to be rebuilt…

Now, I am also interested in how historic and archaeological sites are interpreted, and this one combined several methods, including a live guide (they don’t let you go on your own for obvious reasons) as well as a limited amount of signage, especially up top where they have excavated and recreated Wari tombs.


Down in the ground level area they have full-scale figures to interpret both the construction of the site by laborers and the ritual use of the site (lotsa human sacrifice as you might expect).


The guide on the right is real. Whatever that means. Since this huaca, like so many in Lima, is right smack in the middle of town, there are cool views to new construction from the ancient reconstruction, creating a nice palimpsest (yes, I went there!) of building techniques over time.



They also have a section where they show local plants like cotton and corn and sweet potato and local fauna like llama and alpaca, well, just because, you know…


Okay, back to architectural geekitude. So, we are on top of the huaca and we see the COOLEST parabolic concrete arch 1960s church in the distance. It is super high modern but then it has these singular fussy volutes just stuck on it in the barest gesture to the Baroque flavor of the place…

So of course we have to go see it, which is well worth the trip. There are a few other fussy details, like the hopeless lannon-stone style cladding on the lower portion, but the parabolic vaults are FANTASTIC and dig those circular piercings on the front!

Great stuff, despite the dischordant little volutes and the spiked cross on top, reminiscent of every house in the city…


(SUNDAY UPDATE _ WE GOT INSIDE THE CHURCH _ CHECK OUT THESE PHOTOS!)


So then we headed for the coast, scooting down Avenida Santa Cruz, where we encountered a Ralph Rapson wannabe screen facade decorating a concrete shed, made with oddly oxidized steel supporting a moderately able arrangement of two-by-fours.

This was followed quickly by what Erika correctly termed a Mondrian, done in a nice convex plan that somehow recalled the 1980s despite the palette.

One of the surprising things down here is actually the economy. They are building buildings like crazy and there are tons of help wanted signs everywhere. Like, not what we have at home in our portion of America.
It seems all of the houses along the coast have been replaced in the last couple of weeks by new highrises….

This super skinny example combines some 60s fetishistic detailing with the ubiquitous post-1995 half-a-shallow-arch roof (what do we call those and why have they never appeared before and are we tired of them already?)

But you can still find a few houses, like this Spanish Colonial, which for once makes a lot of sense, since Peru was once a Spanish colony.

Or this Tudor. Now, I kind of like Tudor, and we did see a fair number of sort of indigenous local fachwerkbau in the Cercado, but I have NEVER seen anyone go so Tudor with a garage door as this.

And then there is the Parque de Amor, which is not only easy to translate, but has a HUGE sculpture that makes the name of the park quite apparent without words at all (although not nearly as explicit as the museum of ceramics, which goes WAY beyond the kiss and embrace)

For more, scroll back to the last three days in Peru. Lotsa pictures.

Lo siento, mañana tenemos a regresar a Chicago, pero tengo tiempo por un otro viaje en la ciudad de los reyes, Lima de Peru.

Lima Day 3

June 11, 2011

Day 3 in Lima was quite exhausting because we started by getting up at 5 AM to go to the farthest side of town (Comas) to join the Mayor as she started a project to plant 40,000 trees in the city. Here is SAIC’s Frances Whitehead, the leader of our Peru project, talking with Mayor Susanna Villaran. You can also see our main partners, Gunther Merzthal to the left and Anna Zuchetti to the right.

We got a chance to introduce the Mayor to our proposed collaboration, helping bring urban agriculture into the center of the city, the World Heritage area, while also supporting local community development. The ceremony included of course schoolchildren and the tree planting itself.


We then met with the Instituto Catastral, essentially a mapping agency that is developing a very impressive geographic database for the city, that will include not only aerial photos, lot sizes, but also condition assessments, historic status and other valuable information. We then returned to Barrios Altos, the section of the World Heritage area that is a bit of a rough inner-city neighborhood, to identify a half dozen possible projects for our students to work on. I was especially interested in buildings that had been carved out as parking in the rear, not because I liked that, but because it offers more opportunities for urban agriculture without removing any historic fabric (because it has already been removed!)


This second one is actually outside Barrios Altos in the central area.

There are a lot of beautiful facades in the area, and this is the more commercial section of the larger Barrios Altos neighborhood, so much of the ground floors are given over to shops.




Despite the deterioration in this area, you still see some of the famous Lima wooden balconies, including these two on Ayacucho, the second of which is an open balcony, the first such I saw.

Here is a classic heritage conservation/historic preservation situation: We found this lovely building which is a facade barely surviving, in the center area, with a huge space behind. The great irony here is that the building is actually owned by a finance ministry, which apparently does not have the resources to restore it.

Back to Barrios Altos. We needed to identify a half dozen possible projects, but we found about 27! Lots of great buildings: here are a few more:


Okay, can’t resist. Some of our group did not like this bit of total Corbu Brutalism but the archigeeks did….

Lima Day 2

June 10, 2011

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…”

Lima Day 1

June 9, 2011


Our first day in Lima, Peru was a full one – 9 to 5, most of that in the offices of the Municipality, looking at their new city planning efforts, largely in the realm of greening the city and providing more opportunities for urban agriculture, under the leadership of our colleagues Gunther Merzthal and Anna Zuchetti. The project began with my SAIC colleague Frances Whitehead, who came here last January to work on urban agriculture projects. When she discovered that the center of Lima – an area known as the “Cercado” for the now-vanished city wall – is a World Heritage Site, she brought me into the project along with Douglas Pancoast of our Architecture Interior Architecture and Designed Objects program. Part of the Cercado is of course the Plaza de Armas, which is spectacular in that distinctively Colonial Baroque style found throughout the Spanish Americas.

Archbsihop’s Palace, Plaza de Armas

Detail, Palacio de Gobierno

Detail, Archbishop’s Palace

Palacio de Gobierno
The most distinctive feature of Lima architecture is the balcony, these wonderful wooden structures, many of which have been restored in the central area.


We spent a good part of the afternoon in the Cercado, which is largely a poor inner-city area once you get a few blocks away from the banks and the plazas. Much of the area is fairly dangerous, and beyond the historic buildings we visited sites that are prime for new huertas, or agricultural park areas the city hopes to develop. Many of these communities are “gated” in a de facto way, due to the high crime conditions.

Here is one of the huerta sites, with a view to an even more impoverished squatter development on the hill in the background. This is in Casa 4, one of six districts in the Cercado.

Here is another park in Casa 6, an area that runs along the river. It is about to be completed.

And here is the very unfortunate condition of the river along the edge of the park.

One of the nicest parks is the Parque La Muralla, which is centered along the archaeological ruins of the original city wall, which stood for some 200 years (1670-1870, roughly). The park includes an excellent museum of the history of the wall and the city.

And it also has a little petting zoo, so I can prove I was in Peru: Here is a llama

Not that you need to go to Peru to see llamas. You can actually see them on the southwest side of Chicago in an oil refinery along the Sanitary and Ship Canal…..

more tomorrow, when we meet the Mayor…