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Cape Verde: a cultural centre as joyful as a coladeira

The National Centre for the Promotion of Art, Crafts and Design is an enthusiastic homage to Cape Verdean culture.

Cape Verde is a country where most of the production processes are handmade and rely on human dexterity and effort, whose products retain characters of intrinsic imperfection and therefore authenticity. The project for the National Centre of Art, Crafts and Design by Ramos Castellano Arquitectos in the port city of Mindelo was conceived according to this approach: a unique work, the result of human ingenuity and the lively local culture imbued with a craftsmanship that juggles difficulties by treasuring every resource and valorising it, also through recycling.

The project involves the renovation of a colonial building that housed the headquarters of the Barlavento radio station - where Cesária Évora recorded her first songs, bringing the mornas and coladeiras of the Cape Verdean musical tradition to international stage - and the construction of a new building facing the existing one. The complex houses various cultural and accommodation functions spread over the two buildings, including exhibition galleries, a bookshop, a classroom, offices, a cafeteria and a shop, with the aim of promoting local art, craftsmanship and design.

The entire project was realised through a handcrafted construction process by local craftsmen. The ex-novo building consists of a load-bearing structure with concrete pillars and beams and infill panels made of wood and glass: the exposed concrete was reinforced by carpenters with different types of wood and plywood, and the wooden frames were made in craft workshops with cutting and sanding tools, where the human element was predominant. On the façade a metal structure, whose prefabricated elements were welded and assembled by carpenters and onto which 2,532 drumheads recycled from old metal drums were riveted, sandblasted and painted by hand one by one, forms a lively and colourful ventilated wall reminiscent of Christo and Jeanne Claude's barrel sculptures.

Since music is a strong element of local identity and social cohesion, the use of the multiple bright colours of the fronts is not merely decorative but underlies a musical project, developed in collaboration with the Cape Verdean composer and multi-instrumentalist Vasco Martins: each colour is a musical note and the entire façade becomes, through the phenomenon of synaesthesia, a score that pays homage to the island's culture in all its possible manifestations, conveying joy and harmony.

Project: Centro Nacional Arte Artesanato e Design, CNAD Location: Mindelo, Sao Vicente Island, Cabo Verde Client: Ministerio da Cultura e industrias creativas, Governo de Cabo Verde Architectural project (restoration of the old building, new building, exteriors, interior design): Ramos Castellano arquitectos Project leaders: Eloisa Ramos, Moreno Castellano Project team: Zico Lopes, Bruno Kenny, Edoardo Meneghin, Marvin Delgado, Danil Silva, Marco dos Anjos Engineering: Ilidio Alexandre, Daniele Salvadorini, Francesco Bini, Denise Martins e Ricardo Martins, Luis Delgado Consultants: Shrikar Bhave, Linda Lam, Ti Nene', Giulia La Ganga, Concetta Cavallaro Interior design team: Bruno Kenny, Edoardo Meneghin Expositions and branding: CNAD design team Paintings and textiles: Alex Da Silva, Bela Duarte, Manuel Figueira, Joao Fortes Completion: 2022

Cape Verde: a cultural centre as joyful as a coladeira


  • Mindelo, Cabo Verde
  • Ramos Castellano arquitectos