Venice Biennale 2012: Yucún or Inhabitat the desert / Peru

Venice Biennale 2012: Yucún or Inhabitat the desert / Peru
© Nico Saieh

For the Venice Biennale, a group of 20 Peruvian architects (with no state support) presented a reflection on one of the most interesting territorial projects in South America. After 80 years in construction, a 20km tunnel connecting the Amazon to the dry region of the Pacific Andes has been completed, a tremendous infrastructure project that will turn this region into a new fertile land.

The “Olmos Transandino Project” will be ready in early 2013, and will attract more than 250,000 people with agriculture jobs (you can see more at Build it Bigger). However, despite this incumbent massive migration, there is no urban planning project on the country’s agenda, leaving one big question still to be answered: what should this territory, with its new urban quality, be like? That’s what a group of 20 architects from different backgrounds and ages set out to present at the “Yucun or Inhabitat the Desert” exhibit at the Biennale.

© Nico Saieh

Each office worked on a 25ha site for three months, coordinating with their “neighbours” to create a unified urban fabric, which is represented with 1:1000 models.

The most important part of the firms’ research was their historical investigation into the region’s ancient Moche culture, a civilization that built astonishing abobe cities, as well as the first irrigation systems, 2,000 years ago. Inspired by Moche traditions, the firms generated a plan that would provide a sustainable future to this new territory.

More from the curator of the exhibit after the break:

In 2012, a twenty kilometre tunnel crossed the Andes for the first time, channeling water from the Amazon basin to the arid Pacific desert in northern Peru. The Olmos hydraulic megaproject extends the agricultural frontier into a vast area of land that requires 250,000 works – and the construction of a new city. This is the leitmotif twenty architectural firms had to reflect on. How is this city in the middle of the desert to be achieved, and what should its architecture look like?

We had to come to terms with a territory that had been occupied by people for more than five thousands years, and where extraordinary pre-Incan cultures such as the Mochica (100 BCE-700 CE), and later the Chimu (1000-1200 CE), once thrived. These civilisations’ different artistic manifestations – ceramics, textiles, metalwork, and architecture – as well as their ability to work the land have been analysed in order to understand how people manage to adapt and progress in desert regions.

© Nico Saieh

Our collective proposal is the end result of many weeks’ worth of discussions at the Universidad de Lima workshops. We propose a way to occupy the territory according to the ancestral ways gathered by the modern city. Each of the participating firms proposed its own interpretation of a city, and these were then blended into a collage where the final collective project is achieved thanks to the interaction and overlapping of proposals that seek to approach each other.

In the same way, each of the firms collaborated with the artist Carlos Runcie Tanaka to transform its architectural reflections into huacos (ceramic objects). These huacos are examples of the ancient pottery tradition of different pre-Incan cultures, who used them to express their everyday life and portray their hunting, fishing, parties, sexuality, and even architecture. The city project has been interpreted by artist Cristina Colichon as a weaved landscape, creating a construct of interlacing and overlapping patterns in the territory.

© Nico Saieh

We believe that these isolated efforts are like the fine dust particles (which locals call yucún) that, when they accumulate through time, form mounds that fill the desert. Our proposal to inhabitant the desert is therefore mass that will continue to occupy a space that Peruvians have been domesticating for more than give thousand years.

- Enrique Bonilla Di Tolla

COMMISSIONER: José Orrego Herrera

CURATOR: Enrique Bonilla Di Tolla


Artadi Architects Baracco Asociados Barclay & Crousse Bragagnini Arquitectos Carlos Palomino – Arquitectos del Norte Carlos Pestana Arquitectos Claudia Uccelli + OUA David Mutal García Milla – León Arquitectos Gonzalez Moix Arquitectos K + M Arquitectura y Urbanismo Llosa Cortegana Arquitectos Longhi Architects Metropolis / José Orrego Nómena OB+RA architects Poggione + Biondi Arquitectos Seinfeld Arquitectos Vicca Verde 51-1 / Supersudaca


Ceramics: Carlos Runcie- Tanaka Textile: Cristina Colichon Video: Alfonso Casabonne

About this author
Cite: Nico Saieh. "Venice Biennale 2012: Yucún or Inhabitat the desert / Peru" 31 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.