#1 Field Trip: Learning from Betão e Taipa @ Serpa

It was Saturday (06.05) early morning and difficult to wake up, but the reason was strong: moving south towards the border to visit the office and building company Betão e Taipa, located at Serpa, still in Alentejo region, Portugal. After getting lost (luckily) on the way, passing unexpectedly by Alqueva’s artificial lake, we arrived to the office. We were welcomed by Francisco Seixas and his partner (life and work) the architect Maria da Luz Seixas, both founders of the company in 2004. Francisco was already waiting outside of the rammed earth wall, to be sure that we wouldn’t miss the way. We visited the office and workshops, from wood work to CEB production line. Inside of this 5000 sqm of land, they cover almost all the vast range of traditional techniques from Portuguese architecture. Always crossing it critically with contemporary architecture. The company BT logo, built with CEB, marques the entrance framed by a beautiful garden made predominantly of local plants: medronho (Arbutus unedo), sage, curry grass (Helichrysum italicum), cork  and olive trees… The two store building is made of non structural rammed earth combined with an internal metal structure that supports the roof. Inside we could find a declination of earth plasters and paintings, marble stone and wooden paneling. The main building hosts the architecture office and meeting rooms as well as the prototypes for earth finishings and pavements. In a separate pavilion works the CEB production line. There, side by side, coexists a manual Terstaram and a new automated line capable of producing 4000 bricks per day.

After a long lunch at a local restaurant, full of delicacies, there was still time to visit a renovation project. A vault made with fired bricks filled our eyes with inspiration for the work to come. The combination of old and new was united by the traditional lime wash, where textures were putted into evidence. Playing with light and views of the nearby clock tower square was a dominant note.

Thank you again Francisco and Maria da Luz for sharing with us so much experience.

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