The San Felipe residential complex (Residencial San Felipe), designed and built by a team of architects from the National Housing Board between 1962-1969, is nestled on a 27 hectare lot in the Jesús María District in Lima, Peru. Dubbed as one of the most important infrastructure projects under President Fernando Belaúnde Terry, the housing complex is representative of the modernist ideology of the time that looked to traditional urban concepts to address the country's contemporary housing needs.
The capital's population boom, a product of the rural-urban migration phenomenon of the 1940s, forced the State to implement a series of housing policies via the Lima Housing Plan, which prompted the construction of large residential complexes inspired by those being built throughout Europe and the United States. Unlike its predecessors Unidad Vecinal 3 or Matute, the Residencial San Felipe was geared towards the middle class, being built on a high-end piece of land by three different teams of Peruvian architects.
The first version of the project, designed by Enrique Ciriani and Mario Bernuy, was built on the south-eastern edge of the urban lot and included 268 residences with 3 different layouts: tower apartments, duplex apartments in 4 story buildings, and two-story houses grouped together in threes. The proposal highlighted the symmetrical distribution of 4 14-story buildings around a plaza dubbed the Agora. Residential mobility was achieved by elevated walkways bordering the Agora. This facilitated communication and interaction between neighbors that cemented the sense of community among the residents. Elements of the project like the open facade, wide windows, and the architectural promenade, were undeniable nods to Le Corbusier's early works.
While the first phase of the project was underway, the government determined that a second phase should be added in order to incorporate more housing units at a lower cost. Architects Jacques Crousse and Oswaldo Núñez assumed leadership of the project in 1964 and laid the foundations for a second phase that would add up to 1400 housing units, green spaces, and a civic and shopping center all connected by a large elevated walkway. The civic center would offer basic educational and commercial services, all housed in a 30 story tower that would also provide space to both private and public entities. Even though this phase could not be completed due to budget constraints, the layout served as a base for the final version of the project.
The third version of the project was given to architects Luis Vásquez and Víctor Smirnoff, who increased the number of housing units to 1631 while simultaneously doing away with the elevated walkway that ran through the complex. Once again, the project was given 3 layouts: 11 story buildings with 5 duplex apartments planned by Vásquez; 5-story buildings with a central patio planned by Páez; and 15-story tower blocks with commercial space on the ground floor designed by Smirnoff. The distribution of the buildings in the complex provided urban spaces of varying size, becoming a city within a city.
In the words of architect Sharif Kahatt (2015), The Residencial San Felipe "can be seen as a collage that illustrates the fusion of modernity, identity, and Latin American progression; a monumental experience for Lima's residents." It represented a new way of urban living and symbolized the modern country that the government strived to create through high quality residential architecture.