Urban Regeneration – Cuartel San Martín

  • Lima, Peru
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In the light of a few questions, a project for San Martin

Can we recognize that an urban diagnostic can be born of a dialogue between those who have the view out (who live there) and those who have the view in (who discover)?

Can we try to end the recurring failures of global urban planning to establish real neighborhoods (urban ones) that are pleasant to live in? Can we recognize that the prerequisite to avoid this failure, the main urban problem to solve, is the connection?


Vital questions:

Why would I come here?

Why would I come back?

Why would I want to live here? (And maybe buy here).

Is it not time to recognize that architecture proceeds from the interior, from an interpretation of the space program, from a desire to truly live “somewhere” and not “nowhere”?

Can we try to establish sensitive urban design rules?

Can we get them to speak of how to treat the wind, the color of the sky and of the earth, the vegetation of here, the views from here?

Can we accentuate different architectural characters to affirm the principal asset of the program: mixed use?

Can we be polite, kind, and generous when building, for ourselves and also for our neighbors?

Can we imagine that the first phase of works might instill a desire to build the following ones?


The new district of San Martin must crystallize the pleasure of living in Lima and reveal the singularities that create the desire to live in this place at this time. To make use of all its assets it must:

  1. Show the geographic location of Lima, its mountainous horizon, deep and fuzzy, sometimes partially obscured by clouds, sometimes revealed.
  2. Express the contrast between the broken lines of the Andes panorama and the complementary gray blue horizontal ocean and its horizon that blurs the boundary of sky and water.
  3. Create a generous and complex landscape using the vitality of equatorial plants, palm trees, flamboyant, the floral profusion of bougainvillea, all in stark contrast with a few reliefs of ocher–colored earth that evoke the more or less abrupt shoreline that characterizes, a little farther away, the encounter between the Peruvian land and ocean.
  4. Propose an architecture that takes into account the silhouette, the limit between built form and sky, that makes more palpable the awareness of time, air, mist, clouds carried by the seasons and winds that sometimes hide the tops of tall buildings.


The terraces of San Martin will be accessible, or planted, or covered by pergolas or umbrellas that reveal the life and vegetation at the tops of towers. This new urban landscape will be particularly visible when backlit by the sun when it is low in morning and evening.


In the north, at ground level, the project extends Panama Park. Vegetation invades the apartment terraces on the first four floors, creating a gently undulating blanket of green that infiltrates between the residential towers then reappears in the south, mutating into a profusion of bougainvillea and other flowering shrubs that form the center of this urban composition, creating horizontal or slightly plunging views from the shopping center and sharply plunging views from the upper level apartments.


The tropical vegetation is treated as a building material that climbs up the northern façades of the office buildings, which in turn become veritable vertical gardens, green and flowering, separated by slots consisting of colored lines, mirrors that frame views toward the marine or urban horizons. The housing units to the south have southern views onto a floral landscape that is dedicated to them and ensures their privacy.


The offices use their position to create the culminating point of the skyline: all four towers end in a rooftop atrium perforated on all five sides (about 30% transparency) that hints at the mysterious interiors and gardens behind. The towers are aligned in descending order. The lowest tower, to the southwest, houses a hotel in which every room has a panoramic window and a balcony on the ocean. At night these “skylobbies” become lanterns in the sky of Lima.


Slot facades evoke colors: red brick, yellow, green and blue, the same colors that punctuate the lively low-lying quarters of the modern city, that evoke distant memories of certain Peruvian polychrome fabrics. The perforations of the interior garden and balcony façades invent new identifying geometries.


The apartments are designed as through-units to take advantage of views of San Isidro and the mountains on one side, and of the ocean on the other.


Wide planted terraces create horizons within the tower façades. These horizon terraces provide a site for single level apartments facing due west or southwest, fully open to the ocean. Above them, other apartments, all different, unique, true penthouses, frame views of the marine and mountain horizons. Each residential unit benefits from an architecture that uses the full potential of its location and views.


The shopping center is a transitional element, to the south with the Miraflores district, to the west with the athletic fields that overlook the ocean. At street level a sunken promenade along the sidewalk offers a lively façade of shop windows occasionally interrupted to allow views of the flowering crater. On the terraces in front of the towers on the Miraflores side, or above the convention center, a few restaurants, cafes and exhibit spaces spread their colorful awnings.


This project can only exist in Lima, only in San Martin, only with a dense, mixed-use program that creates tall silhouettes, multiple vistas, strong contrasts. The ensemble generates calm and protected spaces and a markedly urban shopping center punctuated by long, shimmering, landscaped views and completed by large sunny terraces that are both open and protected.



Jean Nouvel