Curator’s Rationale, Alejandro Arvena about INFRASTRUCTURE-STRUCTURE-ARCHITECTURE:
The Work Of Samuel Gonçalves (SUMMARY studio) in Portugal
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.