Favela Painting Project in Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Within Formal Cities.

When Brian Gaudio and Abe Drechsler decided to make a film about their travels through South America, they encountered one small problem.

“We had little to no experience in documentary filmmaking,” says Gaudio, a South Hills native who moved back to Pittsburgh last November after earning his architecture degree from North Carolina State University.

Regardless, he and Drechsler, a fellow NC State architecture student, co-directed what would become Within Formal Cities. Funded by a fellowship and an Indiegogo campaign, the film showcases innovative housing and infrastructure projects in major cities throughout South America, including Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Bogotá.

“What’s happened in South America is that architects realize there are problems in their cities, whether it’s a housing crisis or lack of public space,” says Gaudio. “They have a tool set to help solve some of those issues, and they’ve done really inspiring, bold work.”

Hope Forest sports center in Bogotá. Image courtesy of Within Formal Cities.
Hope Forest sports center near Bogotá. Image courtesy of Within Formal Cities.

The experience made Gaudio question how architects and designers could approach similar challenges in the US. As a result, he created Module, a housing startup intent on making home ownership a reality for millennials and low-income populations living in cities.

“I wanted to start a company when I was moving back to Pittsburgh, and I wanted to start something that would make cities better,” says Gaudio, who now serves as Module’s CEO.

Module recently became a cohort of the East Liberty startup incubator AlphaLab Gear, where Gaudio and a small team of architects and designers are in the process of developing housing prototypes. Their current design is a narrow, rowhouse-type unit that can be expanded either vertically or through the back.

“We have a version of our product that gives flexibility to the homeowner if they want to customize that house,” says Gaudio. “There’s also a version that enables the units to be more affordable, so you could start small and then grow it as your income grows.”

Module elevation diagram. Image courtesy of Brian Gaudio.
Module elevation diagram. Image courtesy of Brian Gaudio.

Gaudio will also host a sneak preview of Within Formal Cities as part of the programming for Building Optimism: Public Space in South America at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center. He hopes the film will encourage local architects, designers and planners to reflect on their roles in determining Pittsburgh’s future.

“Now that our population has stabilized, and we’re seeing a demand for people to move here and developers to develop here, what is our role and responsibility in how the city changes?” says Gaudio.

The Within Formal Cities sneak preview screening will take place on November 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. The event is free.

See a trailer for the film below:

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.