Lima was also part of the expansion of architectural Brutalism, although belatedly in respect to Europe, as huge concrete buildings were erected over a city that was not yet planned.
The emergence gained momentum during the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces of General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975). The ideas of social and political transformation were paralleled by large concrete- exposed buildings, among them, the Ministry of Fisheries in the San Borja district.
In Latin America, Brutalism was a trend between the 1960s and 1970s that coincided with governments of nationalist discourses; nevertheless the initiatives for the design of the imposing and geometric buildings would have been the idea of the architects themselves. Interestingly, in Peru the military overthrew a democratic government presided over by an architect, Fernando Beláunde Terry. They then strategically enlisted architectural specialists in large-scale government projects under their orders. Fishery in those years was one of the largest industries in the country, with Peru as the world’s leading exporter of fishmeal. Hence the justification of the mega project that included the construction of a Museum of the Sea that never came to fruition.
Architects Miguel Cruchaga, Emilio Soyer and Miguel Rodrigo were in charge of designing a temple dedicated to fishing in a total built area of 52,000 m2. The construction’s huge concrete slabs also symbolize the enormous stones used by the Incas for their constructions in the sierra, seeking to create a historical link with the past. Remember that for the military government a fundamental objective was social revolution and restoring dignity to Peruvian workers, which meant a re-encounter with the past in more positive ways, even if that also meant taking certain discursive or anachronistic visual elements.
At that time, designing a space for the development of the fishing sector was the priority, and in the words of the architect Cruchaga: “We were excited to create a work that would welcome fishermen from all over the country, who would be enthusiastic when entering.” The building’s entrance is an enormous hall allowing access to three divided towers, designed for the management of both private and public companies alike to work together for the benefit of the fishing industry.
Once the construction was finished in 1975, a year before the Civic Center had been completed, the building could not be filled and the dissatisfaction of certain sectors of citizens and the press in the face of the military dictatorship led to severe criticism of the monumental buildings, calling them white elephants and insulting the Brutalist style. On top of that, the fall of fish production in the following years made the use of the building unreasonable for the programmed purposes. In spite of everything, its design, molded by concrete blocks that allow internal modifications, made it possible for it to be used for other governmental purposes, such as the Museum of the Nation and later as home to the Ministry of Culture, also sharing spaces with the UNESCO offices, Philharmonic Radio and public cultural spaces.
Location: Javier Prado Avenue East 2465, San Borja 15021