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These modular cabins put a Brutalist spin on prefab

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Samuel Gonçalves’s Gomos System builds adaptable spaces from concrete modules

View of concrete housing units. Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

The promise of prefab construction is that it’s faster, cheaper, and more sustainable. How designers go about achieving those goals can take myriad forms. One of the more inventive efforts lately comes from Samuel Gonçalves of Summary Architects, whose Gomos System uses precast concrete modules to build expandable, adaptable buildings.

First seen as a prototype at the Venice Biennale in 2016, the system has been refined to the point where it’s now used to build actual, habitable structures—for instance, this new housing project in Vale de Cambra, Portugal.

Gonçalves explains that the public-facing bottom floor of the mixed-use building is shaped by structural panels and prefabricated concrete slabs that can be one open space or compartmentalized as needed.

On top of the ground floor sits six modular homes, each measuring 484 square feet and made of precast concrete. These units are modest, with their most striking features being the angled roof and glass wall on one end. But with modesty comes efficiency.

The modules are fabricated in a factory and then constructed on site. According to Gonçalves, this building system is a testament to our current moment.

“The pandemic shows us that it is crucial to create labor conditions avoiding decontrolled workers’ concentration, and there’s an ever-increasing shortage of skilled labor in the construction field,” he says. “Is this building an anticipation of how construction will look like in the future?”

Two-story concrete building. Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Compact kitchen featuring yellow wall Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
View out of bedroom into living room Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Angled concrete housing unit glowing at night Fernando Guerra | FG+SG