Very few humans have the power to comprehend spaces and visualize their true essence. It took a long time to find the right piece, and staying for a long time in Europe gave them an idea to move forward and see their own country, Peru, differently. Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse founded Barclay & Crousse Architecture in 1994 in Paris. They returned to Lima, Peru, in 2006 and, since then, practised from both places simultaneously. Trained as landscape designers while being architects, the studio works on projects that explore the relationship between landscape, climate, and architecture. But, it’s not just a simple definition of incorporating landscape into the design but instead blurring the lines between nature, building, and sculpture, striking the right note.
Recipients of many awards, from the Prix Robert Camelot – Academie d’Architecture (France) in 1993 to the Oscar Niemeyer Prize in 2020, the architect and her design partner have explored an array of typologies and left an unforgettable mark in the form of unique experiences on parts of this very planet. The peculiarity is very subtly noticeable in their operations, and there are many unsung design elements that become the spine of a structure. The practice has a way of seeing aspects from a diverse standpoint every time they start from ground zero.
Ingredients | Sandra Barclay
Sandra Barclay and her team have a distinct pattern of handling every commission that comes to them. They have a list of what they call ingredients required to create an almost perfect design recipe. It is a process, a way of moving forward and gradually realizing the purpose of the building that is waiting for its inception. Passion is not what drives them, neither is the need to find answers that push them, but the love for engaging with the meaning and sense of the structures.
The practice set up in Lima has a very unusual topography with a magnificent and shockingly ridiculous ascent of ten thousand meters combined on both sides of the sea level, within the width of two hundred kilometres. This has created a rainy side on the east and a desert on the west. The climate is odd, with overcast skies but no rain and mild sunlight. But this challenge has given rise to a constitution of design that guides them loyally.
Since she started practising architecture, Sandra has always been grabbed by the robust architecture of her country’s past. She has studied how local materials have generated a suitable micro-climate for traditional buildings and how relying on what is available is always the way to kick off. The Peruvian culture comes with a beautiful past, and the interest in studying this fascinating legacy set in place lured Sandra to move further in that direction.
Believing in the roots, studying the culture of the predecessors, staying within the logic of the territory, respecting the climate, considering the local artisans and craftsmen, and working with the right technology are all the ingredients that construct a growth pattern. Incorporating aspects like space, matter, light, and time play the role of a catalyst in creating the right setting. This is the modus operandi that guides them during the project. The architect works starting with sketches, then modelling, practice, precise drawing, to reality, and back to illustrations and all over again. Predominantly, she begins with sections to understand the levels and contours of the program before mixing up with materials and nature.
Sandra Barclay and her crew surprise us with different variations towards existing and ubiquitous typology by use of idiosyncratic abstractions and exploiting the landscape that is up for offer. Being a landscape architect, the need to infuse nature appropriately is indispensable, making sure to control and juxtapose it only where necessary. A lot of projects have already been undertaken by Sandra and her team. Name a few: University facilities Up, Place of remembrance, Casa Huayoccari, Vwdoble houses, etc.
Working from residential, commercial, and cultural to educational every arrangement has been treated with novelty. The notion of newness and using what is available sets Sandra on a different track.
The style of design signifies brutalism in some manner, and the idea of keeping the structure materials exposed in projects hints at the raw and pure nature of the milieu. Sandra relies on the past to understand how structures were built and how different strategies were put in place to create the right setting, and she ultimately gets inspired by it. In Peru, there are negligible industrial and economic parameters to support the built ecosystem, so the choice of materials is always questioned, and they work with what is at their disposal. But seriously, it has kept the architects from defining the term novelty. Enclosure and openness, gravity and lightness, thickness and thinness; everything that improves well-being finds its place in the buildings.
Ideology and Philosophy
The ideologies a human being holds are personally influenced by the infinite episodes that life has given in the form of experiences. In addition, the very beliefs create a path to tread on, opening up gates to new portals of functioning.
Sandra Barclay’s set of ideas belongs to a breed of architects that try to get under the skin of the design problem before proceeding further. She knows the purpose is right there. Creating sensible opportunities and sensitive responses to solve human needs by perceiving the territory within its logic is a belief she always sticks to. She starts by asking questions. The good questions, to be precise, to start, and guide with the process but not to find answers. It’s not the answers they want but a gradual search for ingenuity that feeds their mind to keep marching.
Sandra Barclay believes in competitions for improving public buildings, which bring the people together and retain the values of the past while getting out the best ideas. The rule is to stay simple and stay within the essentials of architecture. Use technology but at the same time take a cue from the local context and setting. The design intends to blur the social boundaries by devising open plans that impart freedom for people to weave together with the context. Congruent use of light and shadow in the right way and at the right time to connect subtly with nature inside and outside the building is the underlying force of their power of design.
Final Words | Sandra Barclay
Architect Sandra Barclay received the 2018 Woman Architect of the Year award from The Architectural Review for her work at the Paracas Archeological Site Museum. She teaches at a few colleges while practising at her firm. She has been an inspiration to a significant number of females and continues to inspire everyone around the globe.
Quoting architect Sandra Barclays, The buildings are less important than the spaces between them.
- Princeton.edu. (2018). Lecture Series: Sandra Barclay | Princeton University School of Architecture. [online] Available at: https://soa.princeton.edu/content/lecture-series%3A-sandra-barclay [Accessed 13 Nov. 2022].
- The Architectural Review, www.youtube.com. (2018). Sandra Barclay: ’It is important that women have a voice’. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4PEETvQMTg&t=158s [Accessed 13 Nov. 2022].
- The Architectural League, www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Current Work: Barclay & Crousse: Other tropics. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tn7MIQaj_I [Accessed 13 Nov. 2022].
- BARCLAY&CROUSSE. (n.d.). BARCLAY&CROUSSE. [online] Available at: http://www.barclaycrousse.com/.