Facing the vastness of the desert

Architects: Barslay & Crousse
Razgovarao: Miquel Adrià


Studio Barclay & Crousse occupies a prominent place in the Latin American architectural panorama. It was founded by Sandra Barclay (Lima, 1967) and Jean Pierre Crousse (Lima, 1963) in Paris. Since 2006, the studio is based in Lima, where they have carried out private projects and some public work that have allowed them to propose bold ideas that go beyond the architectural programme and context. Rather than establishing relationships with the landscape, the studio’s architecture is the landscape itself. Their work explores the potentials of matter and the depth of its façades, diluting the limits between interior and exterior, and sacralising some of its meeting spaces where the extraordinary is part of everyday life. The most outstanding works include the museum/memorial Lugar de la Memoria (The Place of Memory), a series of houses on the Peruvian territory, and Building E of the University of Piura, which in 2018 earned them the Mies Crown Hall Prize of the Americas (MCHAP).


Oris: How did your experience in Peru begin after working for several years in France?


Jean Pierre Crousse: There are always two times, the time to leave, and the time to return. First in Paris, with a South American and especially Peruvian complex of hierarchies, considering the Europeans as superior, and also the real fact of reaching a fairly scholarly medium such as the French, where we became aware that we were ignorant. Although that did not push us to read more but to go and see buildings, encouraged by Henri Ciriani, our mentor. A somewhat Corbusian idea, to judge by what you see and not by what you read about the buildings. We had the opportunity to travel around Europe to collate the ideas we had, rather than to foster a desire for a scholarship. We realized that the scholarly culture around French architecture was somewhat static and mostly devoid of any ideas of its own. On the other hand, the appreciation of a reality left behind that was ours. We, like many other Peruvians, lived and saw the Peruvian desert as a void. From the distance, we became aware of what was always there, as, for example, the vertical sun of the tropics, or the vastness of landscape. From Paris, we realized the reality that we live there but also the reality that we left.