USF Alumnus Giancarlo Giusti Brings Back Craft with Modulo Design Studio

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

USF architecture alumnus Jesus Lopez teaches wood shop manager Van Lopez how to weld. Photography by Bryce Womeldurf.

USF architecture alumnus and Modulo designer/fabricator Jesus Lopez (right) teaches Modulo wood shop manager Van Lopez how to weld.

USF architecture alumnus Giancarlo Giusti is the owner and founder of Modulo, a Tampa-based design studio employing a team of twelve to create unique products and spaces that shape Tampa Bay and beyond.

Since opening about eight years ago, the firm has done work from Tampa Bay to major cities such as New York, Miami, and Chicago. During that time, Giusti has assembled a passionate, tight-knit team that is united in the name of design.

“This is all about following your dreams and making sure you’re doing what you like,” said Giusti. “We’re design addicts.”

Modulo designs and fabricates a wide variety of architectural components, such as staircases, doorknobs, and furniture. The studio also designs entire buildings as well. They’ve done a house in South America and are currently working on another residence in North Florida.

Giusti, who graduated from USF in 2008, realized the need for architectural design and fabrication when he was working for an architecture firm in Tampa. He started small by making components on his own on the weekend.

Now, the enterprise is Giusti’s main focus. Modulo recently acquired an entire warehouse in Tampa with enough space to accommodate their busy schedule. At one point in October of 2018, the firm found itself with 25 active projects.

So far, the success of Modulo has happened organically without the need to advertise or spend energy promoting themselves. Clients seek out the small firm because of the quality work they do.

“We have the sign for the building, but it’s hiding in the attic. We never installed it; we never had the time,” said Giusti. “People know where to find us. We’re living the dream of the 1950s, where you go to the carpenter because they are so good, and you keep going back, and you tell your neighbor, ‘you should use these people.’”

photo the hydraulic brake and waterjet machines at Modulo Design Studio in Tampa. Photography by Bryce Womeldurf.

Esteban Bello operates the hydraulic brake machine at Modulo's warehouse in Tampa. The machine weighs 50,000 pounds and can bend metal up to 1-inch thick.

One member of this sought-after team is Kenneth Schweiberger, an alumnus of the USF School of Architecture and Community Design.

He first met Giusti as a student at USF. He attended critiques for Giusti’s architecture detail-making class, a class Giusti teaches as an adjunct faculty member at the USF.

Students in this class learn about the design and fabrication of smaller-scale works, such as furniture, as well as the intricacies of the materials involved in fabrication. The lively, challenging, and collaborative sessions of presentations and feedback in the critiques peaked Schweiberger’s interest in this area of design.

Schweiberger began working at Modulo in his third year of architecture school before taking a break to focus on his thesis.

Upon graduating from USF with his master’s degree in architecture and community design, he came back to work at Modulo for the variety of tasks he can take on.

“Part of the beauty of the job is that every day is drastically different than the day before,” said Schweiberger.

He spends some of his days at Modulo doing fabrication tasks such as grinding, cutting, welding, and sanding, while other days, he is designing on the computer doing work as he did as an architecture student at USF.

Jesus Lopez is another USF architecture alumnus on the Modulo team. He finds meaning in his work as a designer and fabricator at Modulo because of the impact the studio has on the Tampa Bay Area.

“When I drive around, I see something I actually put my hard work into,” said Lopez. “I could literally drive down the street and see outside items that I’ve done, inside items that I’ve done. That, to me, gives me a good feeling.”

Perhaps the most distinct aspect of Modulo is its team, an energetic group of designers and fabricators that is able to problem solve and meet tight deadlines while also adding value to each other’s lives.

“We’re all best friends, our chemistry is all very close,” said Cameron Buck, a designer and fabricator at Modulo. “We all have dogs, we all ride motorcycles, we all like working hard, and we like design.”

He says the family feeling of working at Modulo is key to their success. Challenging and fast-paced days are made better by working alongside close friends. It is not uncommon for something to be designed at 8 am and installed by 5 pm the same day.

In the future, Giusti wants Modulo to offer clients design, fabrication, and construction services all through the same company. This would allow him to streamline the process of getting products to clients, and allow more time to focus on making great products.

To Giusti, the field of architecture and design is extremely meaningful because it has an influence on the lives of so many people.

“You’re not destroying anything, you’re leaving things behind,” said Giusti. “Somebody’s eating at your table. … Some doctor is operating on a patient at the hospital that you designed. Some students are taking classes at the classroom that you designed. Somebody’s kissing for the first time at a corridor that you designed. All of these things have a huge meaning.”

To learn more on Modulo and see their work, visit their website.

Cover photo: (From left to right) Kenneth Schweiberger, Jesus Lopez, and Giancarlo Giusti talk in the Modulo warehouse in Tampa. Photography by Bryce Womeldurf.