Film Focuses on Housing Solutions

NC State architecture alums Abe Drechsler and Brian Gaudio return to campus Monday, March 13, to share a film they produced on a seven-week tour of South American slums and shantytowns in 2014.

The 45-minute documentary, titled “Within Formal Cities,” traces their journey through the rapidly changing urban landscapes of Bogota, Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. They’ll screen the film and answer questions at 3 p.m. in Witherspoon Theatre and again at 6 p.m. in Burns Auditorium in Kamphoefner Hall. Both events are open to the public.

Among the lessons they learned along the way, Drechsler says, is to think strategically — and locally — about global problems. “We can learn from the way cities in South America have adapted to the pressures of population growth,” he says. “We didn’t go to South America to solve their problems; we kept open minds and empty sketch pads.”

The alums hope to inspire a new generation of designers and city planners to find ways to make housing more adaptable and affordable in a time of limited resources. Gaudio leads a Pittsburgh startup company, Module, that designs so-called incremental housing, modular structures that can be built out as a family’s needs and income grow. Drechsler works for KieranTimberlake, an architecture firm in Philadelphia.

The design approach Drechsler and Gaudio advocate is based on a theory called urban acupuncture that focuses on small-scale projects and encourages community participation in planning.

“You pinpoint a very specific location that has an impact on the whole community,” Drechsler says. “It’s a way of using architecture as a tool for social change.”

Monday’s screenings bring the project full circle. The 2014 trip across South America was funded largely by the Linda and Turan Duda Traveling Fellowship, an annual scholarship available to architecture graduates who have demonstrated academic and design excellence. Turan Duda is a 1976 NC State alumnus and partner in the firm Duda | Paine, the award-winning, Durham-based firm that designed the Talley Student Union.

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