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Disruptive Design Competition in Chicago, Illinois

Updated: Mar 22, 2020



Disruptive Design was a three-part design competition that focused on challenges to designing new, affordable, and owner-occupied housing in Chicago’s neighborhoods.


The competition was open to ideas from architects, designers, students and anyone invested in urban development, and was initiated by the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force.


Chicago faces unique challenges as certain parts of the city, especially the close-in neighborhoods, are experiencing similar speculation and displacement as affluent coastal cities; however, other parts of Chicago are more characteristic of rust belt decline that disincentivizes new construction.


Disruptive Design brought a strong focus on new materials and methods as well as the ability to age-in-place, live/work, and accommodate families—social scenarios often overlooked by typical apartment construction schemes.


While ideas varied, the winner of Disruptive Design was Adaptable House by Greg Tamborino—selected for its unique design solution for a common problem in parts of Chicago: vacant lots. Tamborino’s design included the competition’s call for wealth building opportunity, building on Chicago’s legacy of two-flats where owners often occupied one while renting the other.




The brilliance in the competition was in considering wealth building opportunity, and how a single building could flex over time from a multi-unit for a young professional or senior citizen, or where units could be consolidated to make for a larger family home.


The design submitted by Tamborino was a new take on Chicago’s “worker’s cottage” that creates a two-flat with an accessible first-floor that can “be easily reconfigured to adapt to the homeowner at any stage in their life.”


Most importantly, it’s not just a concept but will now be built in the West Humboldt Park and Bronzeville neighborhoods of Chicago.


Highlights from Disruptive Design

  • Disruptive Design was a three-part design competition that focused on challenges to designing new, affordable, and owner-occupied housing in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

  • Disruptive Design brought a strong focus on new materials and methods as well as the ability to age-in-place, live/work, and accommodate families.

  • Explore more of the ideas produced by the Disruptive Design competition as well as the finalists.


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