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Unicap Icam Pavilion (Authors: Ana Rolim and Andrea Câmara)
1st Prize winner of the Brazilian Institute of Architects, Pernambuco Chapter (IAB-PE) 2021 Awards, Interiors and Design Category; 2nd Prize Winner of the Cultural Heritage Challenges Award by the Architecture and Urbanism Council of Brazil; Highlight of the Brazilian Institute of Architects, Pernambuco Chapter (IAB-PE) 2021 Awards, Intervention in a Building of Historic Interest Category

The Pavilion houses the creative spaces of the International School Unicap Icam, located in the city of Recife, Brazil. The building officially celebrated the partnership between one of the most prestigious universities in Brazil, the Catholic University of Pernambuco (Unicap) and the renowned Institut Catholique d’Arts et Métiers (ICAM), based in France, with 11 campus in the world. The Pavilion marks Icam's first venture in Latin America. 

The existing historic building is interpreted as a kind of generator, as it incubates a diverse program, including co-working, venue for talks, events, meetings, and digital lab. The project privileges the juxtaposition of these uses, valuing the dialogue between the tectonic of the preexisting artifact and the new materiality suggested by the added functions.

Formal neutrality is a key design strategy, which is sought first by introducing new annexes to increase the built area, materializing into volumes that are easily identifiable as new while reassuring the overall austere look of the preexisting structure. Secondly, the tectonic expression of the most significant building materials and finishes is recovered by retrieving the original paint coatings and removing extra layers randomly applied to windows, doors, and cast iron railings.

Three annexes have irregular and chamfered geometry protruding from the existing pavilion to house restrooms, meeting and technical rooms. These fiber cement-cladded components have very few openings, and are connected to the existing building by bridges, highlighting the contrast between old and new elements. The box-like remaining annex is extruded off the NE façade, taking the shape of a glass box that exposes the technological use of the space (a digital lab). Due to the frequent exposure to sunlight its lateral façades are protected by vertical FSC hardwood brise-soleils. To minimize the environmental impact and meet the short time frame for construction, the structural system consists of prefab steel “I” beams and columns, steel deck floor and roof slabs, and lightweight drywall framing for interior partitions. 


The interiors re-state preexisting brick masonry, wood frames and casings, whose design appeal and strength stood out during construction’s prospecting phase. New materials include galvanized steel, painted iron, resin-coated plywood and eco-friendly plastic laminate. The spacing between the bearing wall openings generated the overall layout and its three main zones: reception, cafeteria, lounge/co-working, and open classroom. Taking advantage of the landscape office concept, integrated and flexible spaces were activated with very few visual barriers in between, which ensured the collective nature of the pavilion while allowing the spaces to function independently.

More about the awards by the Brazilian Institute of Architects, Pernambuco Chapter (IAB-PE) can be found here

Northwest elevation. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Diagram of main design strategies

Site plan

Floor plan

Northeast view. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Corner detail: Annexes and existing building. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Building elevatiions

New annexes at Northwest. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Old porch becomes a lounge with a green wall. Photo:Débora Nascimento

View from main entrance. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Reception desk and dining area. Photo:Ana Rolim

Overall view of co-working space Photo:Débora Nascimento

Bridge from existing building to new meeting annex. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Custom shelving unit conforms spatial boundaries. Photo:Débora Nascimento

View from open classroom. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Open classroom featuring custom shelving unit. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Millwork detail at digital lab. Photo:Débora Nascimento

Digital lab at new Northeast annex. Photo:Débora Nascimento

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