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Philly architects win AIA award for ‘tiny tower’ design

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It’s designed like a mini skyscraper—at only 38 feet tall

Courtesy Matt Tinder, AIA

A design for a 38-foot-tall building that’s set up like a “mini skyscraper” just nabbed an award in a national design competition.

The project, called Tiny Tower, was designed by Interface Studio Architects (ISA) and was one of 12 recipients of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2019 Housing Award. It was one of just two recipients in the award’s One- and Two- Family Production Homes category.

Located in Brewerytown, the tower sits in a 12-foot by 29-foot lot and is six stories tall, with a folding plate steel stair at the front of the building, connecting the levels, according to the ISA website. Despite the building’s size, it’s set up like, “a full scale skyscraper,” the site says.

It was the building’s layout and use of vertical space that won the architects the housing award, according to a decision posted on the AIA website.

“These small lots are otherwise typically used as expanded backyards or accessory parking. An expanded section that maximizes height under the zoning code as well as depth of foundation creates six levels of usable space,” AIA said, adding that the building promote vertical living without sacrificing amenities like a roof deck, terrace, and window garden.

“Tiny Tower demonstrates how small scale can feel large in amenity and experience,” AIA wrote.

The Tiny Tower design was the only one from Pennsylvania to take home an award this year. Awards were also given to design firms for buildings in California, Massachusetts, and New York, among other states.

A panel of five judges based their decisions on the sustainability, durability, affordability and innovation in each submission, the AIA website says.