Skip to main content

At seven in the morning inside Casa Tupac in the Barranco district of Lima, animal life unfolds with ease. Butterflies, bees, squirrels, birds—all feeding on the biodiverse garden that occupies much of the space. Some splash in the small puddles formed by water from the hose, while others carefully seek out the perfect trees and bushes to build their nests and await the arrival of their new offspring. At this hour, the only witness to this commotion is Pedro Tucno. He is the gardener of the house and one of the responsible parties for creating, within the city, this small-scale ecosystem where the flora of the coast, the mountains, and the jungle converge.

Pedro Tucno has been the gardener at Casa Tupac since they opened in 2018.

Soul, heart, and life. That’s what Pedro says he brings to this garden since he arrived at Casa Tupac in 2018. The teenager who sold fruits and vegetables with his father in a market discovered his passion for plants at the age of 13, watching a neighbor who sold bonsais giving classes on caring for these miniature trees. He still finds them fascinating, but his knowledge of the plant world is not limited to them. In Chosica, he has a greenhouse where he nurtures small shoots until they grow strong enough to be relocated. Plants like pampa anís, borage, sachaculantro, pampa oregano, vanilla, they’ve all traveled the same path to become part of this oasis created in the heart of the cultural and gastronomic district of Barranco.

The path leading to Central and Kjolle is lined with a diversity of ornamental, edible and medicinal plants.

Walking through Casa Tupac’s garden is like taking a journey through the three Peruvian regions. Approximately 70 species, including ornamental, edible, and medicinal plants, coexist in this urban space that was initially designed by segmenting ecosystems but now, wild, they intermingle into a forest, as imagined by Virgilio Martínez six years ago. With no borders separating them, diversity connects and thrives thanks to Pedro’s skilled hands, who receive requests from the kitchen teams of Central and Kjolle to plant species that are also part of the gastronomic experience. And just as plants grow freely, Pedro takes the initiative on what to plant based on what he feels fits well in this garden. However, there are four plants that, at the chefs’ request, must always be present: wild quinoa leaves, sweet potato leaves, oxalis, and purslane. Equally important are muña, paico, honeysuckle, heliotrope, lantana, and lemon verbena, which also integrate this link between gastronomy and ecosystems.

At the beginning, the garden was designed segmented by ecosystems but today it is a forest without delimitations.

The garden is at sea level but contains a vertical world reaching up to 4500 meters where the uses of plants are not only as food but also medicinal. Thus, the muña that grows from 2500 meters above sea level is infused to treat digestive and respiratory problems. Descending towards 1800 meters above sea level, pampa oregano heals and cures colds. Borage and purslane traverse the three regions, relieving inflammations and fevers. Thousands of years of understanding the environment support these cultural knowledge, which also speaks of identity.

The minimalist design inside the restaurants and the abundance of the garden evidence the “outside there is more,” that mobilizing conviction for Mater’s projects. From the first day, alongside architect Rafael Freyre, the vision for Casa Tupac was to reconvert the spaces and preserve what they already contained. Thus, the architect’s conceptualization minimized the built area and kept the existing trees in their original locations. As an act of memory, the original plant species were also maintained, and as a rescue act, more than twenty trees from neighboring lands were relocated to Casa Tupac to give them a second chance. The pacae, avocados, molles, pines, loquats, and casuarinas shade the coastal ichu, tarwi, succulents, physalis, coffee, cotton, and cacao that also grow in this varied oasis.

The minimalist architecture of the restaurants contrasts with the abundance of the garden, but is in line with the use of natural materials such as wood and stone.
Aguaymanto leaf, one of the fruits that grow in the garden, illustrated with the pointillist technique by Liliana Abad.

Such diversity had to have a meaning beyond being a beautiful garden one walks through to enter the restaurants, and Melissa Loayza, a cook and part of Mater’s team, set out to integrate it into the experience. It would be a journey that invites first to know the environment outside and thus better understand it inside. Alongside Pedro, they identified all the plants already in the garden, and with Nicolás Palacios, a botanist from the Agrarian University and Mater collaborator, they began to integrate some new species. Liliana Abad, Casa Tupac’s general assistant and also an illustrator, joined this project. Thus, this small but multidisciplinary team developed technical sheets that not only present botanical information but also include Liliana’s illustrations, created from the delicate technique of pointillism. The stands designed to display them now blend with the vegetation, and visitors stop to read and appreciate Liliana’s illustrations up close, who painstakingly drew sweet potato leaves, muña, paico, pacae, yellow chili, rue, cotton, ichu, sachaculantro, physalis, salicornia, and airampo.

Melissa Loayza and Pedro Tucno identified together all the plants in the garden.

Illustrated postcards with garden plants on one side and a map on the other mark the beginning of the experience for those who arrive at Casa Tupac. Following the small routes drawn on the map, visitors explore different heights. Thus, a first stop can take them to extreme heights before passing through the low Amazon, entering the dry forests, and end up traveling coastal deserts. These journeys reveal the geography of a journey that will continue at Central or Kjolle, and they may arrive there more nourished with curiosity and new knowledge. They will be bridges connecting the outside and the inside and new memories that they will now know how to link. Making the connection with what one is eating is a way to reaffirm its existence, one that involves identity, history, diversity, culture, and community. That’s what this house and this garden are all about.

Panels with pointillist illustrations by Liliana Abad are part of the garden tour to help visitors identify the plants.
Macarena Tabja
Guest author

Communicator from the school of Journalism, Social Communication, and Advertising at the University of Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a master's degree in documentary photography and a diploma in visual anthropology, both from the Centro de la imagen in Lima, Peru. Her most recent works focus on Amazonian communities in Loreto and San Martín, using photography and storytelling to narrate everyday life stories. She has been published in national media, SPDA, WCS Peru, Conservamos x Naturaleza, Fotodemic, World Press Photo, and NPR.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu


We aim to integrate by creating an expandable network that is based on a deep understanding of food, nature, cultures, and the environment.

Av. Pedro de Osma 301,
Barranco, Lima. Perú.

P: (+51 1) 242-8515