This studio explores architecture’s multifaceted relationship to the sun—simultaneously looking backward in time and upward to the sky—through the intermingling of the expansive and ordinary set in an extraordinary landscape. Some of the earliest examples of what we call architecture, not only considered the sun, but were shaped and sited by it to operate as massive clocks for the planning of everything from planting crops to performing rituals.
Chankillo,in the coastal desert of northern Peru, is the oldest example of a ‘solar observatory’ in the Americas, dating back to 300BC. The expansive ruins of this cosmological landscape include a fortified temple and a striking linear collection of 13 towers on a ridge. The year was tracked by where the sun set through the twelve gaps between the towers. Protected by a mountain range from the ubiquitous coastal fog, Chankillo lies under incredibly clear skies for solar, lunar, and astronomical gazing.
For the last decade, an intensive conservation project has been underway at Chankillo leading to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021. While conservation will be ongoing, research and visitation will surely escalate. A management plan for the Chankillo Aracheoastronomical Complex was prepared for its UNESCO designation, a plan that includes architectural infrastructure to support research, continued conservation, and visitation by the public to engage the archaeology, landscape, and sky that defines the site.
We will engage this expanse through a defined studio brief for a modestly scaled architectural intervention that supports the immediate needs for the site as outlined in the management plan. We will also explore more profound questions about architecture’s relationship to historic and cosmological time and space, as well as with the sun in an age of climate emergency. The architecture will include—accommodations and resources for those working at this relatively remote site; facilities to support and educate visitors to the site; and an observatory to engage the sky.
During travel week, the studio will travel to Peru. Assisted by university partners at the Pontifica Universidad Católica Peru, we will spend four days in Lima, exploring the city’s urban and architectural culture, visiting projects from pre-history to today. We will then travel six hours by bus up the Peruvian coast along the Pan-American Highway to Chankillo, where we will spend two to three days. Based in the small town of Casma, we will also visit a handful of other sites with ruins from pre-Incan civilizations.