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UTEC Campus

Grafton Architects

In the 1950s, Eileen Gray named the third of three ingenious houses for her own use in the south of France, Lou Pérou. The Irish-born designer, one of the most modest of High Modernists, was perhaps wistful in that nomenclature for travel and faraway places. For Gray, Peru seemed almost as exotic as fabled El Dorado. 

Six decades later, her fellow countrywomen Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, together with their team at Grafton Architects, completed the first phase of a remarkable structure in Lima, the sprawling capital of Peru. There is little that is overtly fanciful in this contemporary Peru. Distant from their base in Dublin, the Irish architects have erected a large yet generous concrete matrix stacked with classrooms and raised terraces and shaded communal spaces. Surely Eileen Gray would have delighted in their brave and optimistic achievement. 

The brief listed the many classrooms, laboratories, auditoria and offices necessary for this new University of Technology and Engineering - UTEC. The only non-Peruvian practice to proceed to the second round of competition, Grafton radically interpreted the brief, literally opening up the considerable building mass to light and air. Their scheme harnesses this mass as a monumental palisade against a busy, sunken scar of a motorway to the north whilst releasing the vast concourse at pedestrian street level to collegiate and public use. The atmosphere is both business-like and civic. 

Lima has a rather peculiar topography and a rather peculiar climate. There is, as so often in Latin America, a colonial core of gridded streets with ornate churches and palaces. From this compact urban typology, modern Lima has stretched in almost all directions; “almost all” as the formidable Andes soon rise up to the east and, as the visitor quickly discovers, the city has expanded across a plateau to descend abruptly to the Pacific Ocean along a largely barren...

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