Rather than thinking of buildings as isolated objects, we think about building as New Geography, making an infrastructure for Life. Our intention was to make a university particular to this unique place on this fragile planet. Because of Lima’s benign climate, it was possible to make all circulation open to the air. It forms a new external circulation landscape. In order to reduce the use of precious resources, only rooms that need environmental control are air-conditioned. Referring to Le Corbusier’s Free Plan and Adolf Loos’ Raumplan, in this benign climate, it is possible to make a Free Section , where space ‘flows’ in a three-dimensional way , blurring the boundaries between inside and outside. For us, sustainability is both a cultural and environmental issue. By having external circulation within this vertical campus, students and professors are connected to one another educationally and socially. This strategy also encourages awareness of and relationship to the Ocean, the Andes Mountains in the distance and vast encompassing contemporary city. This three-dimensional weave also encourages participation by students in parallel subjects, as they are able to observe the various laboratories on display and in use as they move from one area and level to another.
In Lima, Peru, UTEC needed a new University. They held an international architectural competition. With globalisation, sameness obliterates uniqueness. Each place on earth has unique co-ordinates, history, traditions and culture. Lima is a city build on a desert, 12 degrees south of the Equator. A cold current which comes up the Peruvian coast from Antarctica keeps the city’s climate at a pleasant temperature of between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual rainfall in Lima is one-third of an inch. There are 40 m high cliffs onto the Pacific Ocean that define the edge of the city. The site for the new University is in a type of valley, which leads up from the ocean road. The north side of the site is bounded by a busy motorway, while the southern boundary adjoins a residential district, called Barranco. Researching what UTEC needed, we imagined a man-made ‘cliff’, positioning its structure along the motorway, to be visible to passing traffic and to register the campus in the public mind. We positioned the larger volumes of the laboratories on the lower levels, with the smaller teaching spaces and administration on upper levels. The roofs of lower spaces become cascading gardens. These roofs not only provide outdoor landscaped spaces, reminiscent of the cultivated terraces of Machu Picchu and those around Lake Titicaca, but modulate the form of the new vertical campus to the scale of the adjoining residential area to the south. We imagined a University as an Arena for Learning.
This poured-in-place, reinforced concrete building is organized by a 65 foot main-structure and 32.5 foot intermediate structural grid. Ribbed beams form soffits. Working closely with our Structural Engineers, because Lima is in a seismic zone, the upper part building is placed on large seismic isolators positioned over the car-parking levels, which are embedded directly into the earth. Due to the curved nature of the 1200 foot long site, each 65 foot structural rhythm adjusts itself to the outer rim. The result is that there is no singular long vista. Instead, a series of intriguing spaces form a type of spatial ‘chain’, drawing you from one space into the next. The seismic leaning of the section and the corbelled upper levels protecting against the Equatorial sun, form a type of ‘cathedral’ space – a cathedral for learning. Research Laboratories are on display, like exhibition spaces, positioned to be involved in the everyday life of the campus, central to the ethos of education. Students, as they move about the various circulation systems of the vertical campus, can interact with each other in the open air, feeling the pleasant on-shore ocean breeze in sun-protected spaces. The multiple levels, climate and social interaction forms a type of articulated mountain – a vertical campus. With landscape woven into the various levels, over time, the combination of luscious planting and wildlife will enrich the lives of this new community of scholars.