Fraying grass roof tops Mil Centro restaurant in Peru's historical Sacred Valley

This Peruvian restaurant, which overlooks an archaeological site, was designed by Lima-based Estudio Rafael Freyre as a laboratory and hub for experiments in local gastronomy.

To create Mil Centro, Estudio Rafael Freyre overhauled a building in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, located in Peru’s Andean highlands.

Twenty-three miles from the city of Cuzco, this area once formed the heart of the Inca Empire – a pre-Columbian culture tribe established in the 1400s – and is home to archaeological sites including Machu Picchu.

Estudio Rafael Freyre’s restaurant is set on the edge of one of these historic Inca developments: the Moray Archaeological Complex. Featuring huge circular, stepped paths, the site is believed to have been used for agricultural research.

This history is apt for Mil Centro – a gastronomic project led by Peruvian chef and restaurateur Virgilio Martínez, which serves diners a tasting menu made with indigenous Peruvian ingredients.

Martínez – whose Central Restaurante in Lima is celebrated as one of the world’s best – will grow many of these ingredients on site, following a farm-to-table ethos also used by Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred Noma.

The building has a square-shaped plan arranged around a central courtyard, where an endangered Andean queñua tree grows. The layout creates four separate wings, hosting the restaurant and three research projects led by Martínez.

Among these are Mater Iniciativa, which investigates the natural food resources in the Andes, and Flavour Lab Cacao, which experiments with cacao chuncho.

In the micro laboratory, the team “ferments, distillates and macerated liquors based on local species”.

Following the Peruvian theme, Estudio Rafael Freyre’s restaurant design takes cues from the traditional material and cultures used in the Andes. The aim was for the renovation to celebrate the history of the site, while remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly.

“This architectural project ties into the local communities and brings continuity to the historical legacy of their traditions,” Estudio Rafael Freyr said in a project description.

“The restaurant merges into Moray’s natural, cultural and social setting organically and respectfully.”

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