‘Modern Machu Picchu’ wins RIBA architecture prize

BBC | Published: 17:04, Nov 24,2016

Modern Machu Picchu

The university is said to be a ‘building designed with people at its heart’. — BBC photo

A university building in Peru designed by a female-led Irish firm has won the first Royal Institute of British Architects global architecture prize.

The Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia in Lima was described by Riba as ‘inspirational’ and a ‘bold new addition to the city skyline’.

The engineering university was chosen from a shortlist of six, including work by the late Dame ZahaHadid.

The prize is open to any qualified architect in the world.

It was set up to ‘celebrate civil architecture that empowers people and societies to innovate and progress’, RIBA said.

Modern Machu Picchu
The university is situated on the edge of a ravine in the Barranco district of Lima. — BBC photo

The high-rise UTEC building, designed by Dublin-based Grafton Architects, was described by the Riba jury as ‘a series of landscaped terraces with clefts, overhangs and grottos’ which resembles a ‘modern day Machu Picchu’.

The panel, chaired by Lord Rogers, said it was ‘an exceptional example of civil architecture - a building designed with people at its heart’.

The jury added: ‘Grafton Architects have created a new way to think about a university campus, with a distinctive ‘vertical campus’ structure responding to the temperate climatic conditions and referencing Peru’s terrain and heritage.’

The university is situated on the edge of a ravine in the Barranco district of Lima and is said to blend into its surroundings by ‘mirroring the organic curve of the landscape’ while also ‘accommodating itself in the city’.

Other buildings on the shortlist for the RIBA International Prize were the HeydarAliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan - an imposing curved conference centre designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha, who died earlier this year.

Stormen concert hall in Bodo, Norway, by London-based DRDH Architects, and the Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre in Ribeira Grande, Portugal, from Menos e MaisArquitectosAssociados, were also shortlisted.

Contenders also included the MuseoJumex in Mexico City from British architect David Chipperfield - a gallery to showcase the largest private art collection in Latin America.

The Ring of Remembrance International WWI Memorial of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, by the Agenced’Architecture Philippe Prost, was also a competitor.

The imposing design in Arras, France commemorates the thousands who died in the region during World War One.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said UTEC was ‘an exceptional addition to the city of Lima’ which would ‘inspire other architects and universities all over the world’.

She said: ‘UTEC stood out from all other entries from around the world, clearly demonstrating its understanding, engagement with and concern for those who are lucky enough to live near, visit, teach and learn in it.’

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, directors of Grafton Architects, said they were ‘honoured to be in this group with such esteemed colleagues’, adding of the project: ‘We found that the educational aspirations of the client together with the unique climatic conditions of Lima gave us the opportunity to ‘invent’ a new vertical campus for their new University of Engineering.’

They also thanked local partners Shell Arquitectos for playing an ‘important role’ in the creation of the campus building.

UTEC’s chief executive Carlos Heeren said: ‘Its open spaces push their ideas to new limits, its solid structure makes them feel safe to explore and take risks, and its elegant lines remind us all that beauty can be found even in concrete.’

This year’s RIBA Stirling Prize, celebrating the best UK architecture, was won by Caruso St John last month for the Newport Street Gallery.

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