Barefoot Luxury

tourism resort site

Cape Verde

Surface area
Interior design
  • Going East
Francisco Nogueira

The archipelago of Cabo Verde is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on all sides. Lying in close proximity to sub-Saharan Africa, its climate is unusual due to prevailing winds and sea currents: it is dry and windy with relatively mild temperatures.

Baía de João d’Évora on the island of São Vicente showcases the typical arid coastal landscape in all its monochrome splendour. Browns, ochres and reds of steep hills and valleys contrast with white sandy beaches and the deep blue ocean in painterly fashion; they are subtly complemented by dashes of green only during the wet season.

Here is a site that impresses with its otherworldly barrenness. It raises the question how to co-habit with nature in these extreme surroundings and pay respect to its unique beauty. More precisely, how do we avoid the reverse Midas touch of much resort-style architecture by spoiling the very beauty of a landscape that attracted its construction there in the first place?

This is an important issue in the context of Cabo Verde, a place uninhabited until the 15th century. As its territory has barely any arable land for agriculture, it has always been dependent on overseas links for its survival. Initially it was a stopover point in the Atlantic slave trade; as globalisation proliferated it developed into a commercial centre serving the major shipping routes.

These days the islands rely on tourism for much of their income. The country’s unique landscape is one of its few natural resources, yet commodifying it through rash development carries the risk of losing it all. Our stance here attempts to negotiate this minefield and modestly propose a model for future sustainable development.

Walled Oasis

Within the artisanal building envelope of stacked natural stone, a concrete structure realises an utterly modern spatial experience. Here high-ceilinged rooms fluidly merge into outdoor spaces, while large glass surfaces allow in copious amounts of daylight and sweeping views. Each villa achieves its own specific identity through a mix of lush gardens, courtyard terraces and interior spaces in varying constellations.

The houses are conceived as walled oases within the forbidding landscape. In this artificial environment, the inhabitants can create their own slice of paradise. Lush vegetation and swimming pools secure a pleasant microclimate, encouraging the blending of interior and exterior.

Barefoot Luxury

The luxury and comfort found within this villa are derived from a generosity of space and light and the artisanal quality of its honest materiality. This is not a minimalism defined by expensive finishes and contrived detailing. A certain rough charm of natural textures and unfinished concrete infuses the spaces, in tune with the primeval landscape outside.

A close collaboration with local contractors proved crucial to realise this expressive materiality. Their capacity for modern building techniques was initially limited, yet was compensated by a willingness to experiment and push the boundaries. The construction process here became a process of teaching and learning. The buildings are the result of a continuous exchange between our professional expertise and the contractor’s practical knowhow.