From London, UK to Denver, CO, tiny homes are in the spotlight as architects and activists are turning toward “living small” as a potential solution to homelessness. AIA Chicago is sponsoring a nationwide Tiny Home Competition, encouraging students, architects, designers and the public to plan and design a community of tiny homes for unsheltered homeless young adults, ages 18 to 24. According to the 2015 Chicago Homeless Count and Survey, 31% of the unsheltered homeless population is between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. This competition both raises awareness of younger homeless populations while also providing viable design solutions to a contemporary social issue. Submissions to the competition—generously funded by the Alphawood Foundation -- were due on January 30, 2016. Nearly 300 submissions were received.
Lead Sponsor AIA Chicago is championing the design competition. Zurich Esposito, AIA Chicago’s Executive Vice President, notes, “Our organization sees tremendous value in design as a catalyst for social innovation. The competition opens the door to this possibility.”
In order to provide genuine context and conditions for the submitting architects and designers, the specifications of a grouping of real, vacant sites in a Chicago neighborhood where affordable housing might be developed will be used. Competitors were encouraged to consider location and tenant needs while envisioning the 10-12 tiny homes and adjacent communal space mandated in each competition entry.
Catherine Baker, principal at Landon Bone Baker Architects—another Lead Sponsor of the competition—states, “The tiny homes, while not new in concept, will allow us to explore more nimble and affordable forms of housing and alternate community structures. The competition will also challenge the existing zoning laws and suggest new uses for vacant city lots.”
A jury of accomplished architects, including Landon Bone Baker’s Jeff Bone will join with community leaders and housing experts Sol Flores (founding executive director, La Casa Norte), Bennett Haller (Principle Adviser, Department of Urban Design and Planning, City of Chicago), Marisa Novara (Director, Metropolitan Planning Council) and Kasey White (student at Kennedy King College). Winners will be announced in February 2016.
The competition is being held in conjunction with Chicago’s first-ever Tiny Homes Summit, taking place April 18 and 19, 2016, at the University of Illinois – Chicago. The winning submission will receive a $5,000 award, in addition to a $5,000 fee to obtain architectural drawings of their final design. Their prototype tiny home will be constructed full-scale and exhibited during the summit.
“This effort is meant to bring new ideas for affordable housing to Chicago’s environment,” said Tracy Baim, publisher of Windy City Times and founder of the Pride Action Tank, two of the Lead Partners on the competition. “Thousands of people remain without consistent, reliable housing in this city, yet we have the land to make room for models to fit all needs.” Kasey White, student juror adds, “I was once a homeless youth here in Chicago. There are not many housing programs for youth/young adolescents to have a safe comfortable space to utilize while in this life-trying situation.”
Those interested in learning more about the competition can visit tinyhomeschicago.org