Modern architecture without modern movement | Aldo G. Facho Dede

Modern architecture without modern movement. The case of Peru.

Talking with the architect Ricardo Cárdenas I gave form to the concept of which in Peru the Modern Architecture developed without Modern Movement. This sounds of the first reading less incoherent, how is it possible to detach the architecture of the movement that gives him sustenance?, in the lines that later I share I will try to outline this hypothesis.

Though we have always the Modern Architecture linked to the Modern Movement, I consider important to check the specific germ of each one. The Modern Movement arises in Europe as consequence of a process sumatoria – social, philosophical, technological, economic and aesthetic – that demonstrated the caducity of the system proyectual till then in force.

Benevolent says:

“/…/ the technical, economic and social conditions on which the work of the architects depends have evolved furthermore rapidly, opening the new one and more serious contrast between the transformations in process and the cultural models used to control them.”

In this respect we can understand it as a reaction to the dizzy evolution that they were coming being given in the different human manifestations, all these linked to the important changes of the European company. Though the term is going to be generally associated with the architecture, we cannot speak about a Modern Movement without referring to these processes.

The Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus

Unlike manifestations like the Purism of Jeanertte and Ozenfant or the Futurism of Marinetti, the Modern Movement is not born labelled, but they are going to be the critics of the architecture who are going to create the term. To criterion of diverse experts his origin is in the Germany of beginning of century

“From 1900 Germany is situated in the center of the architectural European culture / … / the relative lack of precedents has allowed to constitute an opened and progressive minority of technical personnel in economy, of politicians and of artists placed in not polemic position against the established power, but in condition to occupy some managerial positions of the company in process of transformation; / … / Germany attracts the best engineers of the whole Europe: They go of Velde of Belgium, Olbrich of Austria, and enclosedly during certain time, Wright of America.”

(Benévolo 1994)

The most important German organization of the postwar is the  Deutscher Werkbund, founded in 1907 by a group of artists and critics, associated with some producers.

“The purpose of the Werkbund – says his statute – is craftsman ennobles the work, relating it to the art and to the industry. The association wants to select the better of the art, of the industry, of the crafts and of the manual active forces; it wants to assemble the efforts and the trends towards the qualit work; it is the place of convergence for all those that are capable and want to produce a qualit work”

(Pevsner 1972)

In the Werkbund it matures, between 1907 and 1914, the new generation of German architects: Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Taut. We can affirm that the Bauhaus is in preparation in the bosom of this institution.

A new architecture

In this context, an architecture based on the “type”, that is to say in tipologías aesthetic, constructive and functional preconceived and catalogued, was losing force in a context of dizzy change and social and technological evolution. The fundamental influence of the artistic Forefronts and the refocus of the process of design from the technological, functional and constructive thing are going to base this new system proyectual that we know as Modern Architecture. The “constructive rigor” (Piñon 2006) substitutes the “type” and the abstract reading of the elements that constitute the architecture allows an infinity of solutions been founded on his determining specific ones.

The Environment, the man and the technology turn into protagonists of this new architecture.

“Desamparados” Train station – Javier Marquina 1912

Peru in the beginnings of the S.XX

To try to analyze our history from the European is to obviate our aptitude to exist. To beginnings of the S.XX Peru was recovering of the war of the Pacífico in the one that lost almost the totality of his productive capacity and it departs importantly from his resources of exploitation. During the government of Piérola (1895-1899) one tries to renew the city of Lima opening big avenues where there were colonial streets, in this process there are projected also public and private buildings that will embrace the neoclassic aesthetics instead of till then republican. In this search of an image of city that represents to this one relatively new company there appears of the hand of a Polish architect – Ricardo Jaxa Malachowski – a style that seeks to provide with a “Peruvian” language the European neoclassicist: Neo-colonial or Neo-Peruvian (1921).

Palacio Arzobispal in Lima – R. Malachowski 1921

The architecture of the following decades is going to go in this search, appearing different combinations of ornamental pre-Hispanic and Hispanic elements on academic bases, whereas in the Engineers’ School French Beaux Arts continued being taught by the system.

In this context of aesthetic promiscuity and academic disorientation, a little checked personage arises but of vital importance for the evolution of our architecture:“Cartucho” Miró Quesada. Formed in Peru but especially self-taught it summarizes his thoughts in the book “Espacio en el Tiempo” (1945), on that it bases the need to reorientate the local architecture in the Modern thought. He understands the “universal thing” as the Environment and the Man, of here the possibility of being global and specific simultaneously. The local shades appear as the response to every particular situation nourished of history, but not like ornaments, but as analysis of the experience.

Unidad Vecinal “Matute” 1952

The young students of architecture of the Engineers’ School (1940-1945) embrace this book as the foundation of the architecture that they consider it is in force with his company. The Agrupación Espacio is founded with the aim to spread and consolidate this architecture and manages in a few years to revolutionize the trade and local education.

Then we have a Modern Architecture without a Modern Movement. They are going to happen almost forty years from the European experience in order that the Peruvian company re-means this architecture and sees in her the way to developing an architecture independent from processes and foreign aesthetics.

 D’Onofrio House 1949

After this deep analysis that I have summarized, I could understand the architects’ evolution as Córdova, Williams, Agurto, Wakeham, between others. Initially I they questioned his “regression” in aesthetics “less pure” that his first modern projects, I managed to reject projects for considering them to be marginal to the modernity. It was mistaken, had restricted the universal thing to certain aesthetic guidelines and had obviated the development of his architecture from a deep analysis of the Environment and the Man. The houses product of the investigation with brick and tipologías costeñas of Córdova they are more legitimate in his Modernity that the austere Club Internacional de Tiro Nº14 “Arequipa” or the same Naval School.

I reorientate with this my look to to Peruvian arquitectura and in general to the architecture, replacing this firstly look of “catalogue” with other one much sharper and opened.

Club Internacional de Tiro Nº14 “Arequipa” 1946

Aldo G. Facho Dede · Architect  Author of the Blog Habitar: Ambiente+Arquitectura+Ciudad

Lima · october 2012

Note: originally published Article 22/03/2010 and updated 24/10/2012


– N. Pevsner “Pioneros del diseño moderno: de William Morris a Walter Gropius”. (1936) Ediciones Infinito, Buenos Aires 1972.

– L. Benévolo “Historia de la Arquitectura Moderna”. 7º Edición. Editora Gustavo Pili S.A. Barcelona, España 1994.

– L. Miro Quesada “Espacio en el Tiempo”. Compañía de Impresiones y Publicidad. Lima – Perú 1945.

– H. Piñon, “Teoría del Proyecto”. Edicions UPC – ETSAB. Barcelona, España – 2006.

Arquitecto-urbanista, docente-investigador, convencido de que nuestro país necesita desarrollar sus ciudades en base a modelos de planificación urbana estratégicos y adaptativos, que partan desde las personas y el ambiente, y que busquen la multiplicación del bienestar y su equitativa distribución.

Arquitecto-Urbanista por la Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería (UNI-FAUA), título homologado en Argentina. Magister en Desarrollo Sustentable por la Universidad de Lanús (UNLA-FLACAM, Argentina). Estudios de Doctorado en la Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña (España). Experiencia profesional en Urbanismo, Planificación Urbana y Arquitectura, desarrollada en las ciudades de Lima-Perú, La Plata-Argentina y Barcelona-España. Ha participado en el desarrollo de proyectos y consultorías para Perú, Argentina, España, México y Brasil. Ha ganado concursos de arquitectura y diseño urbano en Perú y Argentina. Es docente del área de Urbanismo de la USAT y miembro del Consejo Consultivo de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la UDEP. Es socio de FDARQ Urbanismo + Arquitectura y editor del blog HABITAR

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