Chicago Is Running a Design Contest to Create Infill Housing—Here’s a First Look at Submissions
Firms participating in the city’s Come Home Initiative, an effort to encourage much-needed development, are sharing these concepts and more with the contest’s judges this week in downtown Chicago.
Can a design contest actually spur development? Eager to turn at least some of its empty lots into new housing, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Center want to prove that with collaboration, the answer is yes, and everyone can win.
In early February of this year, they announced a selection of 42 firms invited to design infill housing concepts that developers could then use to build on any number of the city’s disused lots in its South and West Side neighborhoods. (The City of Los Angeles held two similar contests in early 2021, one for ADU designs and another for low-rise homes.) The Chicago competition, called the Come Home Initiative, aims to encourage community development via homeownership in Auburn Gresham, Bronzeville, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Humboldt Park, and Woodlawn.
Now, the firms are set to present their work on Tuesday, March 7, at a private pop-up poster exhibition at the architecture center’s Skyscraper Gallery. Their concepts will include plans for single-family homes, two, three, and six flats, and rowhouses, all of which are designed to fill in the "missing middle" with the goal of helping these communities thrive and build wealth long-term.
Chosen winners’ plans will be compiled in a pattern book of pre-approved models that developers can "take off the shelf, or use as starting points for projects," Eleanor Esser Gorski, a licensed architect and the recently appointed CEO of the Chicago Architecture Center, told Dwell last month. But contest organizers aren’t waiting around for the moment to strike. Gorski says winners will be given a stipend and paired with local emerging real estate developers with a goal of starting construction later this year on anywhere from 30 to 100 of the city’s empty lots.
The proposed designs from international participants including local studios Future Firm and CAMESgibson, New York’s MOS Architects, and Mexico’s Productora iterate on typologies currently found within the South and West Sides, but are updated with an eye toward the contest’s goals of strengthening pride of place, improving all-around quality of life, and providing a means of homeownership. Here are a few of the designs under review at the poster exhibition in Downtown Chicago, organized by type.
Office of Jonathan Tate
Get the Pro Newsletter
What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.
Two and Three Flats
Dirk Denison Architects
Urban Lab + The Available City
Architecture for Public Benefit + Pete Rose Partners
Kevin Daly Architects