Barclay & Crousse


La Escondida Beach, Cañete, Peru

December 2003
The Peruvian desert is a weird place. A long strip of dusty grey edges the Andean country against the Pacific. Here, it never rains (well, there was supposed to be a shower about 35 years ago); it never gets very hot (about 30 deg C in summer), nor very cold (14 deg C in winter). The desert ends with a steeply shelving cliff against the ocean, where layers of alluvial accretion are exposed like a lesson in geological stratification. From the top of the steep slope, the view is magnificent, and numerous resorts have been built up there on the desert plateau to capture it though curiously most of the houses have little direct contact with the sea, which is far below, unenticing, rough and rather cold because of the Humboldt current coming up from Antarctica.
Barclay & Crousse have already won a high commendation in these awards for the next door house (AR December 2001). This new one, Casa Equis, adopts the same sort of approach, but refines it. The architects took the envelope allowed by stringent planning regulations and carved into it to form spaces that are both private and open to the view. An entrance patio leads to the main living space that looks out through frameless sliding glass panels over a decked terrace, and beyond that to the ocean. This is what the architects call an artificial beach (the real one being practically unreachable, and not very nice when you get there). Between sea and sky is suspended a long narrow swimming pool. On the lower floor are the bedrooms, the childrens ones cut into the hill and lit from above by sky lights in the terrace deck.
The two levels are connected by a generous stair open to the sky. If it doesnt rain and never gets very cold, there is no reason not to take the roof off the stairs, provided they are protected from wind. From the steps you can really see the stars. Colours (ochre, sand and white) are taken from pre-Columbian and colonial houses, and are intended to respond to the endless layers of dry dun dust that blow up and down the coast.
The jury was taken with the calm three-dimensional elegance of spatial organization, and the thoughtful response of the building to its site.

Barclay & Crousse, Paris
Project team
Sandra Barclay, Jean Pierre Crousse,
Edward Barclay