Installation at the main exhibition of the 15th Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2016
In the 15th edition of the Venice Biennale, Alejandro Aravena invited us to look at new fields of action, projects that intend to improve life quality and stories of success that are worth getting to know. Thus, Samuel Gonçalves, founder of the SUMMARY studio, the youngest studio invited, was selected to present his work “infrastructure-structure-architecture” with the purpose of showing the concept behind his project Gomos System.
The Biennale exhibited two infrastructural pieces (common sewer pipes) and one Gomos System module, side by side, so that we can get to know the elements on the genesis of this building system, as well as its concept’s sequence and logic – “from the infrastructure for basic services to the structure of open architecture”. This installation also included two videos (by Building Pictures), portraying a direct comparison between the construction process of the infrastructural pieces and the Gomos System piece itself – thus attesting the similarities between them both.
The Gomos System project consists of a modular, flexible and evolutionary constructive system, based on concrete prefab units. Each module leaves the factory completely ready, including all the needed interior and exterior claddings and finishes, insulations, water and electricity installations and even equipments and fixed furniture. After transportation, the building’s assembly is simply made by connecting each module, in loco. This process allows us to raise buildings in 3 months (3 days on site), within a period 5 times faster than Portugal’s building-rate average. This entirely industrialised process leads to an optimization of the time spent in production and in construction site, without compromising the building’s structural quality.
This project is not about inventing, but about reinterpreting - we took a pre-existent constructive system often used in water drainage infrastructures and we transposed it into a habitable constructive system. In structural matters as well as constructive ones, the Gomos System is in all identical to reinforced concrete water pipes.
From the infrastructure for basic services to the structure of open architecture.
"The global housing deficit can be measured in the scale of billions. Two opposite approaches can be seen tackling this issue of such magnitude and scale: an inefficient approach and an efficient approach. An inefficient construction system is labor intensive, and this means that, from a political point of view, using as large a work force as possible will keep unemployment rates low, which is just as important as reducing the housing shortage. At the same time, there will be a need for approaches using very efficient prefabricated constructions able to respond quickly and accountably in terms of technical quality to an ever increasing housing demand.
Given the scale of the problem, however, it is surprising that there are not enough examples on the “efficient” front. There is a long history of enemies of heavy-prefab, full-house units, but their lack of flexibility meant they were not fit for the task and were consequently socially rejected. However, the problem of insufficient funds may well also be the solution to the historical problems posed by rigid prefabrication: there is no alternative to getting the fundamentals right, defining an open system, and allowing the different agents to complete frames over time. Incremental design not only redefines the notion and role of prefabrication; it also integrates the efficient and the inefficient necessity of the approaches.
SUMMARY's proposed set of prefabricated elements has managed to balance the logics of prefabricated infrastructure and architecture as support. The project involves the modification of the production line of concrete sewer pipes, the same pipes that can be found almost anywhere. As an intermediate step in this evolutionary chain that starts with a round pipe, the top side of a rectangular version may also serve as a sidewalk, thus making an initial contribution to public space. A larger room-sized shed-roof module serves as a structure that frames future transformation, thus evolving from the infrastructure of basic services to the structure of an open architecture."
La biennale di Venezia, Reporting from the Front
Curator’s Rationale, Alejandro Aravena