Advanced Design Studio: Williams/Tsien

Williams/Tsien: Peru

Yale Academy for Andean Studies


Design and Visualization



Coordinating Faculty

Yale University has a long and complex connection to Peru, forged with Professor Hiram Bingham’s arrival at Machu Picchu in 1911.  This initiated a regular series of expeditions and scholarly visits to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley that continue to this day.  However, during Bingham’s initial forays he removed most of the significant artifacts found at the site and took them on loan to New Haven for further study.  After a protracted period of negotiation, the objects were repatriated, beginning in 2007 and completed in 2012.  They are now housed in a new facility, the UNCAAS-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Incan Culture at Casa Concha.

Building on this legacy and the recent turn to cooperative engagement, our project will pursue the establishment of an academy in Cuzco to support research on contemporary Peruvian and Andean socio-economic issues while also sponsoring educational exchange with the local community.  Our program will consist of three elements: a small facility for visiting scholars and students; a training program for teachers; a school for local youth.  There will be spaces for interaction and dialogue, classrooms for instruction and workshops for exploration.  The academy will launch with a mandate to find topics that build on local know-how and wisdom and connect that with expertise from the wider world.  A primary subject will be refinement of vernacular farming practices in collaboration with the Yale Sustainable Food Project.  Another will be research connecting regional weaving techniques with algorithmic coding and computer literacy.

We will travel to Peru, visiting Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.  This will allow us to track the deep section of the Peru’s landscape, from coastal shoals to Andean terraces and down to the edge of the Amazonian cloud forests.  We will seek an understanding of the cultural and building practices that follow these shifts. We will focus on Cuzco in particular, as the site for our academy and as a locus for connecting the ancient and latent order of the city with its contemporary urban concerns and opportunities.

We are interested in using this project to reflect on and test the potential of temporal experience as a source of architectural inspiration.   We will explore the capacity of our designs to show the simultaneity of the natural, the archaic and contemporary in Cuzco. This is a city and community with historical depth and grounding that is in the throes of economic and social change.  This means that there is also at stake a question of cultural identity and the extent to which architecture can be used to embody or cultivate character for a place and its people relative to the confluence of global trade and tourism.