House for a Carpenter

Project Description

Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize

"Aspire to live quietly... and to work with your hands."


On the south side of Chicago there is a need for more than just new housing stock; the communities located there are in need of jobs. With the relocation of the historic stock yards many residents lost their primary source of income.  Joblessness forced many to move to other parts of the city. Today, vacant lots abound.

This design is intended to be a prototype which reincorporates a place of production into the home. This place of production acts as both a shop and a classroom. The design maintains a domestic facade on the street while the shop and classroom are accessed from the back alley.

One first builds this house then teaches two neighbors how to build similar houses. Those neighbors in turn teach two more neighbors how to build. Thus, the house becomes not only a place to dwell, but also a didactic tool and a place of production.


The house uses simple materials and construction techniques; a balloon framing system rests on top of a concrete plinth. The main floor of the house has spacious but simple living and kitchen spaces which have access to an open-air terrace between the house and the back entrance to the shop. The second floor of the house has two bedroom suites. 

The shop is accessed through the back alley by a stair and lift. It has clerestory windows all around which allow for ample light and give the house above the appearance of floating. There is also a light well which draws light through middle of the house providing both light for the house and shop and views between the domestic space and the productive space.


This project not only proposes a design for infill housing on Chicago’s south side; it proposes another, perhaps, not-so-new way to build and to live in our cities.