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UTEC university campus in Peru by Grafton Architects wins the inaugural 2016 RIBA International Prize for the world's best new building

RIBA International Prize 2016 winner

24 November 2016

The Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, designed by Grafton Architects, has won the first ever RIBA International Prize. Setting a new global standard for architectural achievement, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ prize has been judged by a grand jury chaired by world-renowned architect, Richard Rogers.

UTEC is an inspirational new building in the Barranco district of Lima and a bold new addition to the city skyline. The Ireland-based architecture firm Grafton Architects in collaboration with local partners, Shell Arquitectos have created a new campus building for Lima’s specialist engineering university, established to give young Peruvians access to qualifications, professional opportunities and to encourage social mobility.

Speaking about the building, the RIBA jury said:

“UTEC is an exceptional example of civil architecture - a building designed with people at its heart. Grafton Architects have created a new way to think about a university campus, with a distinctive ‘vertical campus’ structure responding to the temperate climatic conditions and referencing Peru’s terrain and heritage.

“Sitting on the border of two residential districts in Lima, in section UTEC perches tantalizingly on the edge of a ravine. Seen from across the ravine it is as bold and as pure a statement of the symbiosis between architecture and engineering as could be imagined; a piece of geology imposed on its pivotal site, mirroring the organic curve of the landscape and accommodating itself in the city. To its close neighbours, it is a series of landscaped terraces with clefts, overhangs and grottos, a modern day Machu Picchu.

“UTEC has been designed to encourage its students to interact in a unique way with the building. The vertical structure provides open circulation and meeting spaces in a succession of platforms that compose the ‘frame’ of the building; teaching rooms, laboratories and offices are enclosed, inserted into and suspended from the exposed concrete structure. The frame is a device providing shade, a place of rich spatial exuberance and a platform from which to view the life of the city. The entire life of this vertical campus is on full display to the people of Lima.

“UTEC is the culmination of years of experimentation by Grafton Architects. In this building they show the mastery of their craft, gifting Lima with a bold yet considerate contribution to the city and a visionary, world-class building.”

Speaking today, RIBA President Jane Duncan said:

“UTEC is an exceptional addition to the city of Lima, and a project that will inspire other architects and universities all over the world.

“Grafton Architects have created an innovative new model for a university campus that is highly responsive to its local environment and community. The concept of a ‘vertical campus’ defies convention, as does the mix of open and enclosed spaces, but both are key to the success of this building visually and spatially.

“The RIBA International Prize was created to celebrate civil architecture that empowers people and societies to innovate and progress. UTEC stood out from all other entries from around the world, clearly demonstrating its understanding, engagement with and concern for those who are lucky enough to live near, visit, teach and learn in it. The RIBA is d elighted to award Grafton Architects the 2016 RIBA International Prize.”

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, Directors of Grafton Architects said:

“When we looked at the wonderful range of projects throughout the world which were being considered for the RIBA International Prize, we were honoured to be in this group with such esteemed colleagues. For Grafton Architects, we found that the educational aspirations of the client together with the unique climatic conditions of Lima gave us the opportunity to 'invent' a new vertical campus for their new University of Engineering. We would like to acknowledge the important role played by our local architects in Lima: Shell Arquitectos. We would like to thank UTEC for their belief in architecture and in us and for giving us the wonderful opportunity to work on this special project."

Carlos Heeren, UTEC’S CEO said:

“The UTEC building is a magnificent and incredible construction that is already a milestone in Lima. However, more important than that, is the fact that it has had a real impact on the students and faculty. Its open spaces push their ideas to new limits, its solid structure makes them feel safe to explore and take risks, and its elegant lines remind us all that beauty can be found even in concrete. This building is not just a facility or a space you need to have with classes and labs. It reflects who we are. And we feel proud of it.”

UTEC was selected as the winner of the 2016 RIBA International Prize from the following outstanding shortlisted entries:

  • Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre, Menos é Mais, Arquitectos Associados with João Mendes Ribeiro Arquitecto, Lda
  • Heydar Aliyev Centre, Zaha Hadid Architects with DiA Holding
  • Museo Jumex, David Chipperfield Architects with Taller Abierto de Arquitectura y Urbanismo (TAAU)
  • Stormen Concert Hall, Theatre and Public Library, DRDH Architects
  • The Ring of Remembrance, International WWI Memorial of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Agence d’architecture Philippe Prost (AAPP)


Notes to editors:

  1. For further press information please contact - Fiona Russell, or Rosie Marsh on
  2. Grafton Architects was established in 1978 and is led by directors Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara. Winners of numerous international awards including the World Building of the Year Award 2008 for their building for the Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan, widely acclaimed and recognized as a seminal contemporary work, they are currently working on the commission for the design of the new Paul Marshall Institute for the London School of Economics, United Kingdom; the new School of Economics for University Toulouse 1 Capitole; the new Town House Building at Kingston University London; and the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter Project – The New City Library in Dublin, Ireland. Grafton Architects were shortlisted for the RIBA’s Stirling Prize in 2013 and won the RIBA European Award the same year for the University of Limerick Medical School.
  3. The RIBA International Prize is in association with the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) and in collaboration with Association of European architects (ACE), the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), Province of Buenos Aires Association of Architects (CAPBA) & National Association of Norwegian Architects (NAL).
  4. Wallpaper* Magazine is the exclusive lifestyle media partner for the RIBA International Prize.
  5. Dezeen is the exclusive Professional media partner for the RIBA International Prize.
  6. CNN Style is the exclusive video media partner for the RIBA International Prize.
  7. The RIBA International Prize Grand Jury includes Billie Tsien , founding partner of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners based in New York City, Kunlé Adeyemi, founder and principal of NLÉ, Marilyn Jordan Taylor FAIA, the Dean of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Fine Arts, Philip Gumuchdjian, founder of Gumuchdjian Architects and Chair of RIBA Awards and Chaired by Lord Rogers of Riverside.
  8. The Royal Institute of British Architects is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. @RIBA
  9. RIBA awards have been running since 1966. RIBA inspires and rewards excellence through across a programme of regional, national and international Awards including the Royal Gold Medal, RIBA Stirling Prize and RIBA House of the Year. The RIBA International Prize is the first global award for buildings open to all architects in the organisation’s history.
  10. Social media:

    Follow RIBA on Twitter @RIBA
    Follow RIBA on Facebook at @RIBAarchitecture
    Social media hashtag: #RIBAIntPrize

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