Tiny Homes Competition

Bronzeville, Chicago

AIA Chicago
///  Tiny Homes Competition Winner Announced
AIA Emerging Professionals 2017
///  Citizen Design

The Tiny Homes Competition was an international design competition seeking proposals for a community of tiny homes to house Chicago youth experiencing chronic homelessness. It was organized by AIA Chicago, the AIA Chicago Foundation, Landon Bone Baker Architects, Windy City Times, Pride Action Tank and funded by the Alphawood Foundation.

Via Chicago partner Marty Sandberg, AIA - working with frequent collaborators Lon Stousland and Terry Howell, AIA - developed a potential alternative to address youth homelessness in Chicago. "This Is a Home for Living In" was selected as the winning design from a field of nearly 300 entries.


"This is a Home for Living In" surrounds a communal courtyard with 11 low-cost housing units for college students who struggle to access reliable housing options. The architects were eager to join the discussion on an issue that hits so close to home - Howell's own family lives just two blocks from the competition site, frequently hosting the trio of designers and their friends for football and barbecue nights over the past 10 years.

Rather than attempting to radically "reinvent housing," their design draws heavily on proven planning techniques, traditional & low-cost construction methods, and familiar, durable materials to create a building that feels like a natural fit within the existing neighborhood. Units open onto a landscaped internal courtyard, and are accessed via a shared breezeway that doubles as a semi-private outdoor space for each resident. Sloped ceilings provide generous daylight & natural ventilation, and make the unit feel far more spacious than 300 square feet. This is not a cute weekend cabin to be pulled around on a trailer, or a cheaply-built, metal-clad shed. It is solid & permanent - an honest home - which intends to make a lasting contribution to the community.

One full-scale model was constructed for the Tiny Homes Summit at UIC this past April. Major elements were prefabricated in an off-site warehouse, then quickly erected during a two-day period. Scores of summit participants, nearby residents, UIC students, and local developers were able to experience the possibilities first-hand as they explored the unit throughout the week. Via Chicago is currently working with local developers to bring a similar development to Chicagoland in the very near future, and assisting with the design of similar projects in Evanston, northern Indiana, Detroit, Nashville, and Seattle.