Page C1.1 . 11 February 2004                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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    Postcard from Peru

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    A village in the Peruvian Andes suggests European influences. Photography by Matt Bridgestock.

    Dear ArchitectureWeek,

    On my round-the-world bicycle tour, I cycled through the surrounded by snow-capped peaks and deep valleys, where I found some great examples of Peruvian vernacular. Latin American design is strongly influenced by centuries of Spanish rule. The street-and-plaza urban language was imported from Europe, and with subtle modifications, it provides the predominant urban landscape here.

    Politics and religion are powerful and emotive forces in Latin America, so it is not surprising that the church and local council building are usually the most prominent buildings in these mountain villages. A plaza between them gives the inhabitants a space to meet and discuss the topics of the day.

    Construction is mainly of sun-dried mud blocks, timber beams, and terracotta tiles. The facades are coated with a smooth muddy mortar and painted for protection from the rain. Windows are usually small and fitted with shutters. Even in the highest and coldest regions, buildings are rarely sealed, insulated, or heated. It seems as though these hardy souls depend purely on copious layers of bright clothing for protection from the elements.

    Stripped down to an almost modernist level, the buildings depend on strong collective form, color, and the use of consistent details to achieve elegant facades. Balconies, shutters, overhanging tile roofs, and wood detailing all add richness and variety. Vibrant blues, greens, and yellows give color and identity to the urban spaces.

    On the road in Peru,

    Matt Bridgestock


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    The tour through South America was part of World on Wheels, a journey begun in April 2003 by a few young British designers. Now traveling solo, Matt Bridgestock is circumnavigating the globe by bicycle, recording architectural and urban spaces as he goes.


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