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NUMBER:Lab’s Lima

Written by Cator Sparks Posted on January 31, 2013

Occasionally we like to turn over the editorial to some of our pals in the design world. 

Architect turned menswear designer Luis Fernandez produces a large portion of his collection, NUMBER:Lab in Lima, Peru and offered up a tour of the city from his well tailored point of view based on a recent production-focused trip to the southern hemisphere.

Since 2007 when we started NUMBER:Lab, I have been going down to Lima for production and development of the product, as well as meeting and sourcing new factories and vendors.  I very quickly fell in love with the city.  I have spent quite a bit of time there, so this set me on the fast track to get to know its ins and outs.

For the lounge and athletic part of our collection, the quality of Pima cotton is really amazing in Peru, as is their craftsmanship.

The food is spectacular and extremely healthy, Lima is right on the ocean so it is all very fresh. The people are great and very friendly.

So it makes for a really cool place to do business in, and to take-in between the time spent at factories and “talleres”.

There is a real vibe of a ‘new Lima’; it is economically healthy and there is a sense of prosperity; so this is a perfect time to venture down and see Lima growing.

Here are some highlights of the resurgence of the culinary world down there as well as places to stay and one of my passions, the architecture.

Restaurants:

  • A sure and casual stop in central Miraflores is Tanta.  On each trip, I have to find some time to stop by for a simple Causa (a pancake of potato, avocado and crab salad, with the aji de gallina sauce); and the complex culinary take on a standard dish: the mini Tacu Tacu.
  • A new and noteworthy row of restaurants has set up shop on Avenida La Paz in Miraflores. Peru has always had a standout gastronomic heritage, and a new breed of star chef is brewing and in full throttle, making for a very exciting culinary moment .  Several savvy and notable chefs are opening multi-tiered companies of restaurants.  (think Tom Colichio or Danny Meyers’ on-going list of high and low spots).
  • Two new standouts were Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s Amaz … A serious and delicious ode to Amazonian ingredients and cuisine; and the more accessible of Gaston Acurios’ empire: Papachos, a Peruvian inspired burger joint. (you’ll definitely want to hit the hotel gym the next morning, or run along the cliff, with a breathtaking birds-eye view of the Pacific Ocean.)
  • LA73- this spot sets the standard for the local social scene in Barranco, which is the more bohemian and artsy area of Lima. Roam the galleries along the Paseo Saenz Pena, (don’t miss Lucia de La Puente’s cool colonial house and gallery) and then hit LA73 for a social fix, marked by cocktails and good food.

Hotels:

Big chains set the tone in Lima. There are a couple of boutique hotels popping up, but none to run to. It wont be long before the boutique experience descends on Lima.

  • In Miraflores, the J.W.Marriott is one of the most centric. The grand dame of Lima, it’s a trusted and always safe bet.
  • And also on the water with a great rooftop pool, the Miraflores Park Hotel (part of the Orient-Express chain) is the place to be seen.
  • The Casa Andina Private Collection is the top-end of a Peruvian chain. Aimed to provide good service and a boutique feel. The building is an iconic piece of brutalist modern architecture: glass, steel and exposed concrete; even if the interior tries to blend-in a more local decor.
  • The new modern and very glassy Hilton has just opened, and from the looks of the lobby, it’s bringing vegas-glam to Lima.

Architecture:

A good mix. Modern ‘glass and steel’ has descended upon Lima, creating a random pattern of old and new just about everywhere.

  • In Miraflores and San Isidro, the older and fairly well-kept colonial houses compete for breathing space with the new slick modern white and glass buildings. Driving along the super-busy (and very congested) highway La Republica is one of my favorite architectural surveys that slices through the city.
  • An older (but still very futuristic) Interbank building by Hans Hollein remains an all-time favorite.
  • New to the mix is the simple yet graphic Westin Hotel skyscraper, the tallest yet in Lima, designed by Arquitectonica’s Bernardo Fort-Brescia.

The most striking and interesting thing about some of the modern insertions into the city is their willingness to experiment and play with form: twisting, stacking, leaning, turning and suspending, these buildings speak to a very sculptural nature.

Sports:

The culture as a whole has a pretty dedicated attitude to sports and keeping fit.  Even though there seems to be an over-population of gyms (and even at that, step into a gym at 8pm and it’s like Grand Central station at rush hour), there are plenty of spot do tackle sports outdoors. Looking down out over the ocean, you spot a sea (no pun) of surfers waiting for the next big wave. And all along the running path adjacent to the water (both at sea level, and along the overlook at top of the cliff) you will see exercise bars and equipment.

Particularly of interest while leaving one of the factories was this angular and architectural, combo soccer-basketball structure. Can anyone say ‘multi-task’?