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Service and Community

Design Grads to Pitch Housing Solution at SXSW

Favelas, like this slum in Rio de Janeiro, use adaptive building practices to meet residents’ changing needs.

A post-graduation seven-week tour of South American cities by two NC State architecture students in 2014 sure has legs. The students, Brian Gaudio and Abe Drechsler, spun off a documentary and gallery exhibit based on their first-hand exploration of informal housing settlements in four countries. Now Gaudio has launched a startup company with industrial design grad Drew Brisley and they’ve scored a chance to pitch their innovative ideas for affordable, adaptable housing at the ninth annual SXSW Accelerator competition.

The accelerator is the marquee event in Startup Village at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals, slated for March 10-19 in Austin, Texas. Gaudio and Brisley are finalists in the social and culture category.

“My team and I believe everyone deserves access to a well-designed home, no matter your income,” Gaudio says.

That’s exactly what their Pittsburgh-based startup company, Module, hopes to make a reality. They recently joined a startup incubator and began developing housing prototypes based on a patent-pending structural system that allows homebuyers to start small and expand as their needs and resources grow. This type of “incremental housing” is perfect for first-time homebuyers and working families, Gaudio says.

Among the company’s advisers are two NC State faculty: Distinguished Professor of Architecture Pat Rand and Professor of Innovation and Design Christian Hölljes.

Gaudio’s and Drechsler’s 2014 project, Within Formal Cities, allowed them to study the role of architecture and design in addressing the urban housing crisis in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia. During the trip they visited housing projects and interviewed over 30 designers, government officials and residents — often filming their interactions.

The project was funded by the College of Design’s Linda and Turan Duda Travel Fellowship with additional support from the American Institute of Architects. Since returning from South America, Gaudio and Drechsler have lectured and screened their documentary throughout the United States and in the Dominican Republic, where Gaudio led an urban design research initiative on a Fulbright Scholarship.