2023 AIA Small Project Awards: West Campus Residence by Alterstudio

After leaving a cherished modernist residence they called home for more than a decade, the architects and owners of this project purchased a student rental that sat on an unusual 80-foot-wide lot. The design for the home, which accommodates a growing family that includes a set of twins, is guided by a desire for a compact and efficient space that is tuned to its natural surroundings.

This residence has a 1950s, 1960s International Style. It’s both compact and thoughtful.  – Jury comment

Austin’s West Campus neighborhood plan offers a mix of housing types, carefully balancing single-family residences with high-rise multifamily buildings closer to the University of Texas’ campus. The architects’ deep knowledge and commitment to the neighborhood helped as they purchased the rental worked with neighbors in obtaining a variance to subdivide the property into two thin lots. While modest in terms of density increase, the subdivision brings new families to this quickly transforming neighborhood.

Throughout, the home underscores that compact living is an exercise in distilling spatial concepts to create an ensemble both efficient and generous. Its first floor is neither a warren of undersized spaces nor a contiguous great room. Instead, a series of spaces are both linked and differentiated by their architectural elements. Glazing that wraps the first floor disappears into the surrounding construction, seamlessly connecting interior and exterior spaces. Above, a larger second floor that allows each child to have their own room creates a series of porches that engage with the street at the front of the home and offer privacy at its rear.

The lower level takes advantage of its position beneath the tree canopy, its tempered daylit environment an important respite from the ever-present Texas sun. It is darker and more tactile than the second floor, with soapstone counters, mill-finished steel paneling, and white oak throughout. The second floor, by contrast, is the lower level’s bright counterpoint. Its bedroom windows project beyond the floor and ceiling, giving its occupants a sense of spilling out into the surroundings. There, smooth-finish drywall prevails, while oak flooring and limited steel create a link to the spaces below.

Overall, this home eschews housing trends dominating nearby Austin neighborhoods and prevailing real estate guidance. At just 1,922 square feet, it easily accommodates a family of five through a series of inventive solutions that support spatial efficiency and generosity.

West Campus Residence

Architecture firm:  Alterstudio

Location:  Austin, Texas

Category:  Three

Project site: Residential – single-family detached

Building program type(s): Previously developed

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 1922 sq. ft.

Project team

Architect: Alterstudio

Architecture Engineer – Structural: Duffy Engineering, Inc.

Engineer – MEP: Positive Energy

Engineer – Geotechnical: Capital Geotechnical Services

Engineer – Civil: Prossner and Associates, Inc.

General Contractor: Green Places

Photography: Casey Dunn

AIA and it’s Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community present the annual Small Project Award Program to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects provide regardless of the limits of size and budget.

Submissions are welcome in four categories:

  • Category one: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design element up to $250,000 in construction cost
  • Category two: Small project construction up to $2.5 million in construction cost
  • Category three: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design under 5,000 square feet 
  • Category four: Unbuilt project award: any unbuilt design that meets any of the category requirements above. This award is for projects that will not be built in the future (speculative work, conceptual work, competition work, student work, etc.)

In 2023, only recipients from Categories 2 and 3 won awards.

The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects meet their individual requirements. Entries are judged individually—not in competition with each other. 

All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including how the project fits into its environment and how the project connects to the Framework for Design Excellence. 


  • Open to all architects, designers and projects that meet our category criteria below. Additionally, the U.S.-licensed architect must be a major contributor on the project.
  • Built projects must have been completed after January 1, 2017.​
  • There is no requirement for professional photography.
  • Any size firm may submit a project.
  • Maximum of four entries per firm—(a single project may be entered in two different categories with applicable fees for each entry).

2023 Jury:

Chandra Robinson, AIA, Chair, LEVER Architecture, Portland, Ore.

Madhubala Ayyamperumal, Assoc. AIA, Gensler, Oakland, Calif.

Chris Baribeau, AIA, Modus Studio, Fayetteville, Ark.

David Corban, AIA, David Corban Architects, Naples, Fla.

Katherine Hogan, AIA, Katherine Hogan Architects, Raleigh, N.C.

Past SPA Recipients 

2022 recipients >

2021 recipients >

2020 recipients >

2019 recipients >

2018 recipients >

2017 recipients >

2016 recipients >