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2014 MCHAP

Cao Museum

Claudia Uccelli

Magdalena de Cao, Peru

March 2009


Claudia Uccelli/ Oficina Uccelli Arquitectos OUA


Ricardo Huanqui (Project Manager) Karen Takano (Project Team) Cecilia Espinel (Project Team) Carmen Rivas (Project team) Michael Vargas (Team Project)


Fundacion Wiese


Edi Hirose/ Fundacion Wiese Alex Bryce Claudia Uccelli


The idea of the Cao Museum was born from the search for an aesthetic comprehension of the Moche culture on the northern Peruvian coast. The management of duality with its elements of light and dark, and full and empty spaces, the materialization of the Moche´s cosmogonic world, and the placement of the buildings in the site and landscape were the starting point for a unique form that establishes new sensory parameters of perception and of the relation of interior and exterior space. The concept of time in the museum tour through distinct but related eras seeks to submerge the visitor in a rich and fluid experience which gradually leaves the exterior world behind and leads at last to a meeting with the Lady of Cao (the most important and sacred find of El Brujo).


The Cao Museum is located within the "El Brujo Archeological Site" on the Pacific Coast some 70km north of Trujillo in Peru. Since the arrival of the first nomads and hunters this sacred place, covering some 100 hectares, has been continuously occupied for over 5000 years. It sits besides the ocean on a plateau 6 meters above the fertile surrounding land. Thousands of years ago this was a sandbank with a mystical importance with has survived to this day. The Moche Civilization (0-800 AD) occupied El Brujo for more than 700 years and built two of the three "Huacas" (sacred adobe pyramids), Huaca Cao and Huaca Rajada. The third one, Huaca Prieta, is one of the oldest in South America: many remains of pre-ceramic peoples have been found there. The Cao Museum was built on an archeologically "clean" plot adjacent to an imaginary triangle joining the three Huacas. The visual perspectives, the direction of the wind and the sea were important factors determining the aesthetic and formal characteristics of the Museum. Its architecture seeks to be almost topographic, adapting itself to its surrounds rather than competing. Inclined roofs and slanted volumes play with contrasting light and dark forms and contours alluding to the importance of duality in the Moche culture. Exposed concrete is the only material used.


The museum publicizes and explains the archeological discoveries and research that have occurred in El Brujo. It plays a key role in establishing the site as major part of the archeological and tourist circuit which has emerged along the northern coast of Peru. Through their incorporation into this architectural space which they have made their own, the local inhabitants have rediscovered their ancient and sacred culture and have gained self esteem. The museum while not inside a modern urban space forms and nurtures citizens of today.

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