2019 AIA Housing Awards: Tiny Tower by ISA

One- and Two-Family Production Homes

Tiny Tower

ARCHITECT: Interface Studio Architects 

LOCATION: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

PROJECT SIZE: 1,250 Square Feet

Urban dwellers are increasingly willing to trade quantity of space for quality. Living in a small unit in a vibrant, walkable neighborhood is more desirable than a larger home in a far-flung location. 

Tiny Tower places a 1,250-square-foot home on a 12-foot-by-29-foot lot, where similarly scaled neighbors are currently used as single-car parking and rear yards for the adjacent houses. Although it measures only 38 feet high, the house is organized like a full-scale skyscraper. An expanded section that maximizes height under the zoning code, as well as depth of foundation, creates six levels of usable space. 

Linked by a strong core of vertical circulation, each level is similar in size and quality, allowing for flexible programming. With a kitchen at the lower level and tucked away bathrooms on upper ones, each floor is free to define live, work, and play in multiple configurations. 

The biggest challenge in a vertical house with a tiny footprint is stair configuration. A folded plate metal stair with winder treads pushed up against the front facade of the building creates a dramatic, light-filled circulation stack that affords surprising views inside and out, as well as a sense of adventure for the occupants. The experience of going up and down the stair is integral to the daily life of the building.

Occupying the entire footprint of the site in the required setbacks, the design promotes vertical living for outdoor space as well, with a lower-level window garden, a second-level walk-out terrace, and a roof deck. Tiny Tower demonstrates how small scale can feel large in amenity and experience. —ISA

Additional Credits

General contractor: Callahan Ward; structural engineer: Larsen & Landis; electrical engineer: J&M Engineering; mechanical engineer: J&M Engineering; stair fabricator: EnMotion Design; photographer: Sam Oberter Photography

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