Chicago’s next iconic starter-home could look like this

The winning prototype from Disruptive Design Competition could be built in vacant lots across the city

TRD CHICAGO /
Jul.July 10, 2019 06:00 PM
Perkins & Will architect Greg Tamborino and his winning prototype for the Disruptive Design Competition

Perkins & Will architect Greg Tamborino and his winning prototype for the Disruptive Design Competition

A new wave of affordable housing construction in Chicago could take the shape of one of the city’s earliest forms of modest homes.

After a worldwide search, the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force selected Chicago-based Perkins & Will architect Greg Tamborino as the winner of the Disruptive Design Competition, which sought to find a prototype for the future of affordable housing development in the city.

Tamborino’s “Adaptable House” prototype is modeled on the worker’s cottage-style home found in some of the city’s older neighborhoods. The winning design was announced by the task force Wednesday.

The design calls for a two-flat home with a one-bedroom first unit and a two-bedroom upper unit, although the home’s layout is flexible, the task force said in a press release. Its facade includes a slender width and peak roof.

The home can operate as a single-family, a traditional two-flat, a live-work space or an “aging in place” home for older residents. The competition’s parameters asked that the design be flexible in terms of use and lot size, have a wealth-building component like a rentable space, and be available to homeowners for under $250,000.

“It reimagines the starter-home model,” Amy Mayer, vice president of construction at Related Midwest, said of Tamborino’s flexible floor plans. Related Midwest will build two of Tamborino’s designs, one in West Humboldt Park and one in Bronzeville.

The Disruptive Design Competition sought to make a dent in Chicago’s growing affordable housing problem. Chicagoans are increasingly finding themselves cost burdened when looking for housing, especially for family-sized units. Exacerbating the problem is that Chicago has seen over 20,000 homes in two-to-four-unit buildings lost since 2010, while new construction has overwhelmingly favored wealthy renters and buyers.

Ideally, the winning design could be easily replicated throughout the city, and in the process becoming a defining Chicago-style home, like the worker’s cottage and bungalow.

Over 133 designs were submitted to the competition, and three finalists were announced in March. Tamborino will receive $20,000 for winning the competition, on top of the $10,000 he received for being named a finalist.

The Chicago Housing Policy Task Force is made up of representatives from Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, LISC, AIA Chicago, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and Northern Trust.


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