Small Wonders: AIA Small Projects Awards

Chicago Architect

Ranging from objects to structures, this year the Chicago AIA was all about small. Recognizing the status of the economy and a shift from living large to treading softly, the architectural organization decided to honor small projects who best reflected these changes all while being highly innovative and on a budget.

The Small Firm/Small Project Award is the first of its kind for the Chicago chapter of the AIA,

The goal of this award program is to raise public awareness of the value that architects bring to small projects and to promote small practitioners as a resource for design excellence.

All firms in the competition have 9 or less licensed architects & architectural interns. The construction budget was a maximum of $50,000 for the 'Object' category, and $500,000 for the 'Structures' category. Of the 14 winners, here are a few of our favorites:

Shown above the jump from left to right:
1 Erie on the Park Residence by Froelich Kim Architecture: "The aim of their material and other choices, say the architects, was to create a calmer, more fluid space than the 'hodge-podge of angled walls and columns' that had been in the space. As built originally, they say, the condominium was made to feel smaller than its 1,300 square feet by its being chopped up into 'compartmentalized and jumbled spaces.' They were called in to impose a logical and harmonious feeling to the home. They did so in part by creating a subtly arced wall that follows the natural circulation path through the center of the home, and by installing several large pocket doors by which the residents can modify the levels of privacy and openness that the floor plan allows."
2 Retreat House by John DeSalvo Design: "This duneland home contains just 1,200 square feet but lives larger, both because of its many window and skylight openings and because of its thoughtful arrangement... The site is tight—and was made even tighter when the builders were required to put up retaining walls to jeep the dune from shifting—but an exterior staircase to the rooftop porch and built-ins throughout the living space are a few of the devices used to preserve interior room... The first floor is 850 square feet, the second is 550, and above that is a spacious rooftop "porch" private enough to accommodate a hot tub. The home sits 14 feet above street level, which further maximizes its stature, not to mention its views. The architect used a palette of natural and local materials for low environmental impact and minimal maintenance."
3 Yao Residence by Perimeter Architects: "When called in to 'redefine' an existing home on a horrendously noisy site 30 feet from a CTA Elevated train platform, the architects turned their backs—or rather, they turned the house's back. They wrapped nearly the entire train-facing side of the house with a standing-seam metal panel wall that is filled with open-cells pray foam insulation that dramatically cuts noise penetration to the interior. The result is a tightly wrapped west wall, with just one window; a large skylight that slices through the top of the house compensates for the loss of light."
4 For the Birds Birdhouse by Froelich Kim Architecture: "Designing an object for a Pritzker Elementary School fundraiser, Froelich Kim Architecture looked to the current housing market for inspiration, noting that it's 'for the birds.' In response, the architects aimed to fill a needed niche with a multi-family birdhouse. The design challenge was to create a fully functional birdhouse that would meet the standards set forth by effective birdhouse guidelines while serving as a built homage to the canons of high modernism."
5 Bucktown Loft by Suski Design, Inc.: "After being completely devastated by fire, this stunning soft loft was re-envisioned to better suit the owner's tastes and functional needs. The client wanted a minimalist environment with an emphasis on the views of downtown Chicago and the Wicker Park neighborhood. The renovation made the layout a free-flowing design where spaces were opened, details simplified and window added for increased natural light and enhanced skyline views. The clean lines, neutral palate, contemporary furnishings and a variety of smooth and textured surfaces help to make this loft a tranquil home suited for both relaxation and entertaining."

Read More: Small Wonders: AIA Chicago Honors Small Project Award Winners at Chicago Architect.

(Images: 1. Bob Coscarelli Photographer, 2. John DeSalvo/David Robert-Elliot, 3. Ana Miyares Photography, 4. Froelich Kim Architecture, 5. Suski Design, Inc.)

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