And you thought your lot was skinny? ISA’s Tiny Tower residence fills leftover plot in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania architecture studio ISA has designed a slender 5 story house in a developing Philadelphia neighborhood, as a housing prototype for tiny vacant lots.
ISA’s narrow Tiny Tower is built like a mini-skyscraper, using a steel-reinforced wood frame that is clad in painted metal across its exterior. Windows take up large portions of the street facade.
Each of the levels is designed to suit different functions, with the floor space totaling 1,250 square feet (116 sq. meters).
Utilizing compact vertical circulation, Tiny Tower maximizes the entire property’s footprint in both length and height. The house is 12 feet (3.6 meters) wide, 29 feet (8.8 meters) deep, and 38 feet (11.5 meters) tall.
The project is located in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown, which is currently undergoing revitalization as new buildings infill vacant lots.
Tiny Tower serves as a prototype for flexible-use buildings on small urban plots. Early waves of redevelopment tend to take advantage of sites with standard dimensions, but the area’s urban grid includes many under-utilized extra small parcels facing alley streets.
The tiered structured stands out from its neighbors, which include parking lots and the gardens of adjacent houses. Rather than a yard, Tiny Tower features a lower level window garden, a second level walk out terrace and a roof deck. The design promotes vertical living for both indoor and outdoor space. The ground floor sits slightly below grade, so the building’s height is not too obtrusive on the surroundings. A further basement level allows for enough living space within the volume squeezed onto the tight plot.
Unlocking the development potential of these tiny sites is critical as the city looks to increase its supply of low-cost housing for a diverse range of lifestyles. A folded-plate steel staircase at the front of the house connects all five levels, while a separate exterior stair provides access to the roof.
The lowest level accommodates a kitchen and bathroom. Above, the main entrance opens to the living room a few steps down. The third floor is used as an office, with two desks across from one another and a small balcony.
The top two stories each house a bedroom and bathroom, and the roof terrace provides extra living space when the weather is nice.
White walls, light wood floors and ample natural light create an airy backdrop inside. All-white furnishings are used sparingly, for a spacious rather than cramped feel.
ISA has also created two other residential projects in Philadelphia: a white townhouse with a plywood core and a housing complex clad in brick, wood and metal.
As land in cities becomes increasingly scarce, architects are coming up with clever solutions to fill in any urban gaps. Other houses that make the most of their tiny plots include a “starter” home with a jagged roofline in New Orleans by OJT, a white house in Brasília by Bloco Arquitetos, and a gabled black residence in Vancouver by D’Arcy Jones Architecture.