Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Western Africa, the island of São Vicente, part of the Republic of Cabo Verde, boasts warm temperatures year round and little rain fall, resulting in a vaguely lunar-like landscape. The island also happens to have one of the best windsurfing beaches on the planet, and attracts many water sport-seeking tourists yearly.
To capitalize on this growing industry, Barefoot Luxury, a hospitality company with far-flung destinations around the globe, tasked Belgian architecture firm POLO Architects to design a series of vacation villas and a forthcoming resort on the craggy island.
"During this process, I went more than 16 times over a two- to three-year span and fell in love with the islands," POLO Architects Co-founder Patrick Lootens says.
The brief was to construct a number of homes for holiday purposes but Lootens was hesitant when it came to the site location. Careful not to disrupt the virgin valley any more than he had to, Lootens made the decision to use natural materials from the grounds directly adjacent to the plot for sustainability purposes and to help the homes disappear into the rocky, arid surroundings.
And when it came to the design, he was eager to meld the traditional Cape Verde way of building with a more Scandinavian architectural design approach."Merging the two styles was like a ping-pong game," he comments.
Expert, local contractors from nearby Santo Antão island, which features an equally unusual landscape ("arid on one side, while the North is wet, humid and Jurassic Park-like," says Lootens), were crucial in completing the 12 homes, named "The Esculturas."
Each home is constructed with exterior basalt stone walls, sourced from the locale. Inside, the home features Kotibe wood elements and entirely hand-poured concrete walls.
"The contractors didn’t have large tools, so they poured the concrete with their buckets and with their hands, which was quite tiresome. But the result was very satisfactory," Lootens explains.
The contractors also put together the oversized wooden windows with wood imported from Ghana and Angola. "They are 15 feet high and quite amazing," he says.
But the most important aspect of the architectural design was protecting owners from São Vicente’s harsh winds.
"The houses are oriented toward the bay and the sea, which is where most of the wind comes from," explains Lootens. To counteract this, the firm used Kotibe wood from Portugal to construct protective, flexible panels that can "be open or closed, depending on the weather."
The one-story homes are built around a central courtyard, a pool, and outdoor kitchen, which provides comfortable areas for entertaining and an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds the homes.
For the interiors, POLO partnered with Belgian designers Anaïs Torfs and Michiel Mertens of Going East. When purchasing pieces for the villas, the two designers looked in the markets of Mindelo, the 80,000-person city just 15 minutes away. There, they found sharks teeth, rattan, wicker, and a slew of other vernacular objects and furnishings that place the villas firmly in their local context.
And when it came to the landscape architecture, POLO took the same approach with the construction, not looking to add anything unnatural to the site.
"It doesn’t rain much there so water is very scare," he says. "We tried not to fill up the landscape with greenery that would require extra water as it wouldn’t be ecological, and it would be expensive. But every home has a small garden."
Builder/General Contractor: Devotal
Interior Designer: Going East
Get the Dwell Travel Newsletter
Start exploring far-flung design destinations, the newest boutique hotels, and well-designed bars and restaurants perfect for the modern jetsetter.