Announcing Disruptive Design Winner



The Chicago Housing Policy Task Force announces the winner of the Disruptive Design Competition 



CHICAGO—A new typology of affordable starter home is on its way in Chicago. A division of the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force has announced that the Adaptable House by Greg Tamborino, AIA, was selected by the jury as the winner of the Disruptive Design competition. Tamborino’s design will create an innovative, sustainable prototype that transforms vacant lots into affordable multifamily housing for the next generation of homeowners while accessibly building wealth for working families.

The competition asked architects from all over the world to submit their concepts for affordable, owner-occupied single-family or two-flat homes that included a wealth-building component (rentable unit or live/work space). After receiving 133 entries in the first phase, the jury selected three finalists: GreenFlex 600 by Joel Huffman, Urban Cabin by Georgi Todorov, AIA, and Petya Petrova IIDA, and Adaptable House by Greg Tamborino, AIA. All three finalists are Chicago-based.

Finalists spent six weeks refining their initial designs with feedback from the city of Chicago’s Department of Buildings and the Department of Planning and Development. They also presented their initial and final designs to residents of West Humboldt Park and Bronzeville—the two communities in which the homes are to be built. Jurors considered community feedback on the final designs, as well as their own expertise in construction, design and public health to make their decision.

Jurors included: Judith Frydland, Department of Buildings Commissioner of the City of Chicago; RaMona Westbrook, AIA, founder of Brooks Architecture; Amy Mayer, Vice President of Construction at Related Midwest; Monica Chadha, AIA, founder/principal of Civic Projects; Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, professor of Urban Policy & Health at Parsons/The New School (New York City, NY); and David Baker, FAIA, of David Baker Architects (San Francisco, CA).

Tamborino’s new take on the Chicago worker’s cottage creates a flexible two-flat with an accessible first-floor that could be an apartment or live/work space that could be easily reconfigured to adapt to the homeowner at any stage in their life. “The house is ‘disruptive’ because it reimagines the usual starter-home model,” commented juror Amy Mayer of Related Midwest. “When you’re young you can own the one-bedroom on the first floor, renting out the second unit. As you get older and have kids, you can move upstairs to the two-bedroom; and, as you age, you can live on the accessible first-floor again.” The first-floor office can accommodate a work-from-home or start-up business.

“The design was sensible, with a clever floorplan,” said juror David Baker. “The large back yard offers a lot of potential,” added Frydland.

Tamborino will receive $20,000, and will complete a set of construction drawings. Related Midwest will build two of his designs—one in West Humboldt Park, and another in Bronzeville—to be completed in 2020.



Tasked with launching the Disruptive Design competition, the collaborative group made up of representatives from AIA Chicago/AIA Chicago Foundation, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, LISC, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, and Northern Trust is a division of the greater Chicago Housing Policy Task Force.


The desire for affordable housing is present in both the gentrifying and underserved Chicago neighborhoods. In gentrifying areas, land values rise with desirability; in underserved areas, depreciated property and land values produce an appraisal gap that prohibits new development.

Construction of new affordable, owner-occupied housing is expensive and only becoming costlier. As the cost of construction and labor increases and incomes grow at a slower pace, the affordability gap between what young professionals, small families, or first-time homebuyers can afford and the cost of construction becomes apparent to both developers and buyers—it is no longer practical to build starter homes. Subsidies, while helpful, cannot be the only long-term solution to this issue.

Disruptive Design asks architects to develop a flexible residential structure that can accommodate various lot sizes and densities, as well as entrepreneurship and aging in place. Architects must innovate for affordability, utilizing new construction materials and methods, and providing single-family homes that offer opportunities for live- work situations, growing families, accessibility, and a new focus on the “gig” economy.