University Campus UTEC


Iwan Baan

Grafton Architects have described their design response to the 2011 competition brief for a new campus for Peru’s Universidad de Ingeniería & Tecnologia (UTEC) variously as a ‘vertical campus,’ an ‘arena for learning,’ and a ‘man-made cliff.’

Af Jason Dibbs

Now that the first phase of construction is complete, the radical competition-winning scheme for University Campus UTEC stands boldly in the middle-class Barranco district of Lima, redefining the dramatic edge of the city and the immense expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, directors of Dublin-based Grafton Architects, edged out a field of 130 local entries and approximately 70 internationally invited entries to win the commission for the UTEC University Campus. The jury for the competition included luminaries of architectural history and theory such as Kenneth Frampton, Juhani Pallasmaa and Francesco Dal Co.

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.
— Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, directors of Grafton Architects

The staunch and muscular structure of the scheme and its interconnected and dynamic spaces demarcate whilst simultaneously drawing together the physical conditions of the surrounding busy motorway and the low-rise urban-edge of the city. The rhythm of the north ‘cliff face’ of the building is syncopated by horizontal slab-lines and vertical fin-like structural supports, whilst the southern face houses terraced areas and pedestrian circulation. The building contains research laboratories and lecture rooms on the lower floors, and tutorial rooms, academic offices and smaller study spaces on the upper recessed floors, thus allowing for the installation of gardens on the terraces below, whilst solar ingress is masterfully controlled through the brise-soleil of staggered floors, horizontal and vertical structures, windows and void spaces.

Whilst the building’s hulking mass and raw concrete exterior finishes are reminiscent of the brutalism that came to characterize certain sectors of public architecture, particularly education, in the 1960s and 70s, the innovative ‘passive’ environmental strategies the scheme employs, such as the externalization of the majority of circulation routes to capitalize on the moderate climate of Lima, are entirely of the moment. Grafton Architects have stated that: “the concrete structure makes a kind of man-made, carved mountain … the matrix – the scaffolding – within which life happens.”

International accolades and recognition have flowed for Grafton Architects’ University Campus UTEC Lima, and particularly for Grafton’s two directors, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Most recently the pair were announced as 2017 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalists in Architecture, as well as curators for the 16th International Architecture Biennale, to be staged in Venice in 2018.

Grafton Architects’ University Campus UTEC Lima also recently pipped shortlisted projects by other renowned firms such as Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield, to be named the recipient of the inaugural RIBA International Prize.

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.
— Sir Richard Rogers

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