University Facilities UDEP: a Learning Atmosphere in the Dry Forest

Barclay & Crousse Architecture

Architects: Barclay&Crousse Architecture
Location: University of Piura Campus, Piura, Peru
Area: 9,400 m2
Year: 2015-2016
Photography: Estudio Palma

The UDEP campus is a huge piece of land located nowadays within the urban grid of the city of Piura, nearly a thousand kilometres north from Lima (Peru). It keeps a very interesting sample of equatorial dry forest, mainly constituted by carob trees over sand soil. The university responded recently to a public grant for admitting low-income rural students, and a new pavilion was urgently needed for accommodating a growing student population.

Our project‘s main goal was to create a learning atmosphere more than an architectonic typology or shape. We considered that the building should be capable of nestling informal learning: casual encounters for exchanging ideas among students and between students and teachers, in a friendly environment.

To achieve this, it was key to the project to create a comfortable zone in the permanently sunny, hot and dry climate of the Peruvian northern desert. The open-air spaces within the geometric 70 x 70m limits of the building, nurture the academic life the same way the dry forest allows living in this place: by creating shade and allowing cross-ventilation.

From the exterior, the building seems monolithic while, once “inside”, one discovers a group of 11 independent buildings, 2 and 3 levels high, under generous cantilevered roofs that emerge from all and each one of them. These roofs provide shadow over multiple gathering and circulation spaces and leave gaps between themselves, ensuring adequate natural ventilation and lighting underneath. Sunlight acts as a sun clock, as it moves throughout the day over floors and walls.

The 11 buildings are arranged around a rational, square shaped circulation space and, at the same time, the spaces created between them are interstitial and labyrinthine, generating a series of unexpected possibilities for gathering, resting and strolling. Multiple accesses to the building are created to stimulate crossing it when walking from one side of the campus to another.

The façades are equipped with vertical louvers and prefab trellis depending on the orientation in this tropical setting.


Project authors: Sandra Barclay / Jean Pierre Crousse
Assistant: David Leininger
Engineering: Higashi Ingenieros (structural design), ESSAC Engineering (Security, life safety and fire protection), MQ & Ingenieros Asociados (Electrical engineering), Equipo “G” S.A. (plumbing)