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Building Pictures

A modular prefabricated student housing with a spin.

Located in Vale de Cambra, Portugal, the student housing and multi-services space by SUMMARY architecture take full advantage of the prefabrication technique: using the Gomos System, the Samuel Gonçalves' architecture studio built a fast and cost-effective complex, that takes cues from the brutalism movement, while providing a comfortable and strategically designed space. You can learn more on Gomos System in this other video by Building Pictures for SUMMARY: Sistema Gomos.

"Prefabrication" is the Building Pictures' short film dedicated to the project and its construction system. Not unlike other films by the Portuguese studio, such as in Time: Rehabilitation of Quinta do Bom Pastor, the focus is not only on the realized complex, on how it takes advantage of the natural slope to conceal the lower story from the road, providing a more intimate communal area, while letting the light flows in the independent housing units, but also on the construction system and site.
And time is somewhat the protagonist also in the film: from the present, the film goes back to the beginning of the construction of the building, inviting the viewer to take a trip back in time and to follow the process of project development: from the production of the pieces in the factory to their placement on the ground.

It is quite unusual to see how places are built - we have heard and written about this more than once: as spectacular projects look when finished, their work-in-progress seems to arise less interest than it should, even though it is a fundamental phase for each and every architecture we get to see and visit. Building Pictures is able to turn the table and join this conversation, also thanks to the way Gomos System works, easy to become playful and understandable to viewers, as much as Lego pieces joined together.
(If you want to watch more “construction site” video, we recommend searching the tag "construction" and watch "The Construction of Villa Além"“)

Most on the film lingers on the construction phase - as central it is to the understanding of the project, meeting the requests of the clients while providing a nice and effective solution. As SUMMARY states: "The strategy was simple: a ground floor level for the multi-services program connected with the public space, crowned by the individual habitational units. Due to the differences between the two programs, we created an independent access for each function and placed them on different levels, taking advantage of the natural ground’s slope."

"The ground floor is composed of prefabricated slabs and structural panels in the whole exterior perimeter. Considering the building's location, in a road-side area where everything changes too fast, the multi-services space is conceived in a very flexible way: the internal compartmentalization is made with removable panels with inner rails for the distribution of water and electricity systems. This enables future adjustments and modifications: we can add or remove compartments or let the whole level function as open space. Thus, the users will make this space to their own, according to the program at hand."

The end of the film brings us back to the beginning: the student complex is finished and inhabited, the austere and brutal appearance of concrete balancing its contrast with the immateriality of glass, as does the impact of a contemporary building set in a rural context.


Architect: SUMMARY / Samuel Gonçalves
Mentioned project: Vale de Cambra (2019)
Project location: Vale de Cambra, Portugal
Prefabrication: Farcimar
Precast assembly: Arouconstroi
Direction: Sara Nunes
Editing: Sara Nunes and Juarez Braga
Music: Tiny Music - Percussive Argument
Sound design: Ana Pedro
Graphic: Juarez Braga

Portugal 2019
Duration: 4'12"