Sasaki is imagining a new “university city” for Universidad de Lima in Peru

Wellness Check

Sasaki is imagining a new “university city” for Universidad de Lima in Peru

Sasaki’s master plan for Universidad de Lima champions grand public spaces. (Eleazar Cuadros)

Since 1962, Universidad de Lima has graduated influential Peruvian novelists, journalists, and politicians. When it first opened in Lima’s Jesús María district near the coast, it had just 120 students. Today, that number is 20,000; and the campus itself has since moved inland to Surco, a neighborhood in the city’s west. 

Five years ago, university officials teamed up with Sasaki to chart the institution’s next twenty years. Sasaki was tapped to design a master plan for the University and transform its campus in Surco from a commuter school into “a vibrant hub of academic excellence, community entrepreneurship, and holistic student development” according to a press release.

Universidad de Lima master plan by Sasaki (Courtesy Sasaki)

Following a recent land acquisition, Sasaki’s master plan grows the university’s footprint into what was once the campus’s periphery. Sasaki’s urban design to create what it calls a “university city” features five important academic buildings around a “grand central axis of public spaces.” The promenade is connected to gardens and squares, and pedestrian pathways create new axial relationships to the east and west. The axis is meant to stitch together the existing campus with the new one. 

To date, two of the five buildings have been completed, while the remaining three are underway. The 180,000-square-foot Student Wellness Center, a hub where “wellness, fitness, nutrition and counseling” converge, opened to students in 2022. The university’s Engineering Innovation Center, a 92,000-square-foot building dedicated to research and “project-based learning” facilities was finished in January 2023.

Engineering expansion (Renzo Rebagliati)
West facade from the existing foundational plaza (Renzo Rebagliati)

The new, award-winning Wellness Center by Sasaki is designed to create strong indoor/outdoor relationships. It consists of a porous volume with multiple voids cut from within the building meant to create dramatic pedestrian-focused spaces. The plaza on the building’s exterior is programmed for live events to accommodate new nightlife activities. The plaza folds underneath the building’s underside to make for seamless entrances and to blur the line between inside and out.

Vehrendeel trusses were left exposed to accentuate the Student Wellness Center’s form and invite natural light into its deep interior spaces. The result is a minimalist, 21st-century statement inspired by Lima’s long tradition of outstanding 20th-century modern design.

Night view of the Wellness Center during an event (Antonio Furukawa)

Sasaki noted that the Student Wellness Center minimizes energy costs and carbon emissions through passive ventilation and contextual shading. According to the designers the master plan’s passive strategies are set to generate 80 percent of the electricity used daily by the university. The Student Wellness Center is tracked for LEED Gold certification.

The new Wellness Center has an accessible roofscape. (Renzo Rebagliati)

“The Wellness Center has been an instant success for the campus. Students spend time in the building at all hours of the day, making it the ideal meeting point to gather and participate in all sorts of activities before, in-between and after classes,” according to university rector Oscar Quezada Macchiavello. “You can see entire processions of students making their way to it across campus in ways we never saw before, the building has become their place.”

(Renzo Rebagliati)
View from amphitheater inside the Engineering expansion (Juan Solano)

“All the indoor and outdoor spaces flow together to create a bustling sense of community that’s energizing to be a part of, as the university’s recent 30 percent boost in enrollment demonstrates. The campus has come to life with World Cup watch parties in the Wellness Center atrium, study sessions on the Engineering Center terraces, and live music on the new plaza,” said Pablo Savid-Buteler, a project principal at Sasaki. “The students have really embraced it.”

The project in collaboration with Universidad de Lima marks Sasaki’s second major campus master plan in Peru. In 2014, Sasaki successfully completed a comprehensive Master Plan for Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) and its 42-hectare campus in Lima’s San Miguel district. PUCP’s Science, Engineering and Architecture Library by Llosa Cortegana Arquitectos was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel, the architects claimed; opening to fanfare in 2014. The Academic Building Complex by Tandem Arquitectura at PUCP won the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize in 2018

Gymnasium for Universidad de Lima students (Renzo Rebagliati)
(Renzo Rebagliati)

The Universidad de Lima’s three remaining buildings, the General Studies building, an addition to the University Admissions Center, and Academic Library, are set for completion in the years to come.