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Peru Travelogue #2

MALI's central courtyard photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

MALI's central courtyard
A tour of 'Lima la gris' with Patricia Villanueva and Christina Arakaki photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

A tour of 'Lima la gris' with Patricia Villanueva and Christina Arakaki
IS Studio's brilliant typographic mash-up: Helvechica photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

IS Studio's brilliant typographic mash-up: Helvechica
The Architecture Faculty at PUCP photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

The Architecture Faculty at PUCP
Pre-Columbian textiles at Museo Amano photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

Pre-Columbian textiles at Museo Amano

13 July 2016
by João Guarantani

In his final report from Peru, our Senior Programme Manager, João Guarantani, talks about the energy of Lima and the issues facing designers working in Peru today.

Our programme in Lima continues with a visit to Museo de Arte de Lima-MALI, a treasure trove of modern and contemporary art as well as an impressive pre-Colombian collection. The museum is at the edge of Lima's old downtown, and the contrast with trendy Barranco and its surrounding business district couldn't be greater: a true Latin American metropolis, here Lima is noisy and busy, with a constant flow of people, buses, 'combis' and cars.

Entering MALI is like stepping into an oasis, with its stunning early 20th century building beautifully restored an attraction in its own right. Here I meet the museum's Education Curator, Patricia Villanueva, a charismatic and inspiring artist-cum-arts educator I had heard much about from many of the artists and designers I've been meeting along the week. We explore ideas of a possible design residency at MALI, which could use the museum's stunning collection to unlock cultural dialogues between Peru and the UK.

We're later joined by Patricia's partner, Christian Arakaki, himself a graphic designer and teacher at the prestigious Art and Design faculty at PUCP (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru). They generously offer to take me on a whistlestop tour of central Lima, and I'm immediately struck by the similarities shared among other Latin America 'megacities' (like my own, São Paulo). A visual cacophony of old and new, emerging and declining, Lima is a place full of energy, providing boundless stimuli and inspiration at every turning. But Lima's position and relationship to the coast makes it stand out against its neighbours - with its seemingly constant veil of clouds and the sea mist blowing in from the Pacific, it's called by the local - somewhat unfairly, I think - 'Lima la gris', or Lima the grey one. How wondeful would it be to set a few designers free amidst all this energy and let them respond to local issues and contexts, and be inspired by this incredible setting?

But my time in Lima is sadly limited, so my tour is cut short as we need to pack as many meetings and visits as we can. The next visit is to the studio of Richars Meza, who splits his time between running a busy graphic design practice, IS Creative Studio, and Lima's newest design festival, LADFEST (Latin America Design Festival). I'm excited to hear about Richars's ambitious plans for this year's edition, and look forward to exploring the possibility of embedding UK collaborations in the festival in future years. Peru seems to currently lack quality platforms like this where designers can present their work and convene, exchange ideas and create new networks, so LADFEST's impetus to present work not only being produced in Lima or Peru, but from the continent, seems particulalry relevant. I'm thrilled Richars will be joining us in London for this year's Design Connections to explore some of these initial ideas on the ground. 

From the numerous studio visits, 51 1 Arquitectos was one of the most fascinating. Aside from their great portfolio of architectural projects, I'm inspired by their ambition to shape into action a regional network of architecture practices that combine a sense of activism and exccellent design. Supersudaca, as it's called, aims to establish innovative ways to improve public space, housing and prodcue quality architecture across Latin America. We speak of different ways to connect this wider network to the UK and beyond. Here, again, I detect a tangible sense of urgency to connect and collaborate.

Before I return to 'Londres la gris', I stop at arguably one of Peru's most respected architecture schools, the Architecture Faculty at PUCP. Leading tutors in the programme have co-curated the Peruvian Pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale (incidentally, one of my favourites, even before their special mention was announced by the Biennale jury back in May!). Central to their exhibition is a moving narrative of a schooling and sanitation project in the Amazon developed by the faculty's academics and students, in collaboration with a number of ministries and governmental bodies at federal level. A kit of parts enabling communities across the largely inaccessible flooded areas of the jungle to create schools and leisure facilities, and, less glamourously but equally essential, sanitation. One may call it 'social architecture', but I simply see this as designers creating space for collaboration and driving forward solutions for issues that really matter: sanitation, housing, public space and cultural provision. It's great to see the prototype in the flesh at PUCP's campus after having seen it in photos at the Peruvian exhibition at the Arsenale.

As I conclude my visit, I'm struck by the quality of the critical thinking and the sense of 'get-up-and-go' in architectural, and indeed design circles here. The constant reinvention of age-old aesthetic traditions and a sense of invention - such as I witnessed in the impressive collections at Museo Amano, a private museum specialsing in pre-Colombian textiles - attests to the need for a deeper understanding of  Peru's design scene by its UK counterparts. Let this be a two-way road of discovery!