Pachacámac: A Room for Archaeologists and Kids

A Room for Archaeologists and Kids

Pachacamac Archaeological Park, Lima, Peru

The Garden: The Third Cycle of Planting


A Collaboration between Studio Tom Emerson ETH Zurich and the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, PUCP Lima. Research and survey, 17 - 23 March 2018, Design and Build Project, 18 June – 12 July 2018.

Garden Rules
1. Each semester’s work is a finished project as well as a canvas for the next.
2. Think in scales: days, weeks, months and years.
3. Be carefull towards soil.
4. Work like a gardener with the precision of an architect.
5. Work like an architect with care of a gardener.
6. Be aware of the weather conditions and work with them.
7. See the weeding as the art of dividing the useful from the less useful.
8. Remove the soil from your shoes and maintain cleanliness.
9. Plant and construct to preserve and improve the existing condition.
10. Everything in the garden can be reused.
11. Unexpected garden projects can be added at any time.
12. The garden is a room from which nothing ever leaves.


Some forty-five students from T5 Juillerat/Manrique at the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, pucp Lima and Studio Tom Emerson at eth in Zurich under the guidance of Guillaume Othenin-Girard collaborated on a six-month investigation that culminated in a design and build project. Together they produced a structure for archaeologists and children to come together to discover the hidden history of Pachacámac. In this new structure, Archaeologists make their first examination of artefacts emerging from the digs, shaded from the punishing Peruvian sun and in view of the passing visitors and school children, who in turn perform their own exploration in the sandpits across the courtyard. At each end of the courtyard, new finds are stored in rooms enclosed by woven cane walls before being transferred to the archaeological museum for permanent conservation. The structure was collaboratively designed and constructed by the students in three weeks in July 2018, following a research programme earlier in the year resulting in the Pachacámac Atlas.


Desert Lurin Valley, picture by Géraldine Recker
Desert Lurin Valley, picture by Géraldine Recker

The archaeological site of Pachacámac is a most extraordinary constructed landscape. Situated on the outskirts of Lima, Pachacámac covers about 600 hectares of land. The pre-Columbian citadel made up of adobe and stone palaces was first settled around a.d. 200 and flourished for about 1300 years to become one of the biggest and most important of these complexes in Peru. The site is the host of numerous layers of civilisation, overlapping each other at this important node of the Qhapaq Nan network of Inca trails, connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Andes. Thus, it represents the full transect of the Peruvian landscape, from the mountains to the coast.

The northern two thirds of the site comprise unexcavated open land awaiting future studies; this monumental area is a significant archaeological site with active excavations and on going discoveries of artefacts and architectural remains. With the construction of the National Museum of Archaeology underway, the government aims to restore this stretch of land to its former grandeur by transforming the site into a new centrality, embedded within the urban-fabric of the city of Lima. Yet Pachacámac is currently perceived as a void, a patch of open-desert inhabited by ruins, caught between the baffling growth of the capital and the mouth of the Lurin River–the last remaining agricultural valley of the region. Its edges are constantly under the threat of encroachment by informal settlements, such as the Julio Cesar Tello neighbourhood, or land invasions, the latest of which as recent as May 2015.

Given the proximity to Lima and the inevitable encroachment of the city into the territory, the project compelled us to ask how a culture can live with ruins, to comprehend what they represent, without being suffocated by their monumental presence. In order to restore the balance between the urban, the natural, and the cultural heritage in the city of Lima, the focus of conservation must shift from the mere preservation of physical archaeological sites, which have lost their meaning and value for the inhabitants; towards revealing and making legible the ancient knowledge embedded in their built heritage and their relation to the territory.


The Room for Archaeologists and Kids, collectively designed and built by students from the Department of Architecture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru pucp and Studio Tom Emerson eth Zurich, concludes a six month long collaboration on the archaeology of the territory.

The first phase after the Atlas was a 48-hour design workshop in groups of three based around site proposed by the director of the Museum, Denise Pozzi-Escot and the available materials. The workshop was a way of exploring the widest field of ideas before coming together around a single strategy. We selected a project to provide a direction to which we added elements of other proposals in order to complete the design. The constraints presented by site and material means were not thought of as barriers but as generators for design. Timber was our main structural material. The success of the group proposals lay in the simplicity of construction and relationship to other materials such as adobe bricks, woven cane and plastic textiles.

The final phase was the most intellectually and physically demanding — the construction itself. We had just under three weeks to complete the task. The team was the greatest asset but to organise nearly 45 people to work effectively was challenging. Anticipating the sequence and physicality of work was as important as any conceptual or aesthetic decisions.

The collaboratively built structure structure will support the social outreach programme of the archaeologists based at the Museum of Pachacámac.

Ruins of Pachacamac (Acllahuasi) aerial photograph taken by the Aviation School, date unknown
Aerial Photography from Military Archives, Laguna Urpiwachaq, 1945

Monumental Part, drawn by Severin Jann
Lomo de Corvina 1945, image found by Tamino Kuny
Ocean and Islands, drawn by Jens Knöpfel
Weaving Techniques, Panõ decorado, complementary-weft weave, drawn by Gabriel Fiette and Juliette Martin
Wood Construction Techniques, Esteras, Archaeologists` Workshop, drawn by Gabriel Fiette and Juliette Martin
Wood Construction Techniques, Esteras, weaving principle, drawn by Gabriel Fiette and Juliette Martin

Borders & landuse, by Sara Sherif

Manufacture & Industry, by He Shen

Manufacture & Industry, by He Shen

Manufacture & Industry, by He Shen
Manufacture & Industry, by He Shen
Grupo Residencial, Villa El Salvador, Informal Settlement Typologies, drawn by Sara Lazarevic

Irrigation Systems and Hydroponic Greenhouses in the Lurin Valley, drawn by Lucio Crignola
Hacienda Mamacona, photographed by Evelyn Merino Reina Buchanan
Hacienda Mamacona, Fundo Mamacona & Lima Polo Club drawn by Turi Colque
Lima Polo Club photographed by Turi Colque