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tower house, chicago

When Architect Rick Phillips purchased the tiny triangular lot in 1996, on the fringe of Cabrini Green, land prices were so low that he bought the adjacent lot, too. Phillips designed the Tower House for fun, knowing that someday he'd build a more serious house next door.

tower house, chicago

When Architect Rick Phillips purchased the tiny triangular lot in 1996, on the fringe of Cabrini Green, land prices were so low that he bought the adjacent lot, too. Phillips designed the Tower House for fun, knowing that someday he'd build a more serious house next door.

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    William Kildow

    "I’m fascinated with the expression of the car as part of the American lifestyle, the way it plugs into the house," architect Rick Phillips says. "I wanted to make it very visible as an honest statement of our culture."

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    William Kildow

    Living room, dining room, and kitchen function as one space. Slate floor tiles laid with a very thin mortar joint contribute to the house’s sense of delicacy.

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    William Kildow

    Rooted to earth, the polished-concrete-block stair tower contrasts with the lightness of the structural steel bays. A door to the roof draws air up through the house like a fan. The spiral fire escape adds sculpture to the back of the house.

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    Frederick Phillips and Associates

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    Frederick Phillips and Associates

frederick phillips and associates, architects, chicago

Architect Rick Phillips, recently married, got the rare chance to design this house just for himself during his bachelor days. When he purchased the tiny triangular lot in 1996, on the fringe of Cabrini Green, land prices were so low that he bought the adjacent lot, too. Phillips designed the Tower House for fun, knowing that someday he'd build a more serious house next door. "I wanted it to be an exercise in something small," says Phillips. "I pushed the envelope in reverse, in that respect."

Cues for layout and amenities came from a friend's Paris apartment. Hence the ovenless kitchen with its two-burner cooktop, undercounter refrigerator, and 18-inch-wide dishwasher. "I was fascinated that in Paris, this is considered a normal way to live," he says, "but in this country it's atypical."

The city skyline inspired a vertical structure and a reverse floor plan that put the outdoor space on the roof. Below that is the minimalist kitchen, dining, and living area, with the bedrooms underneath. The judges praised its urban edge. "It's cleverly worked out on a tight little site," they said. "It's appropriate for Chicago, the land of steel and Mies."

project architect: Frederick Phillips, FAIA, Frederick Phillips and Associates, Architects
general contractor: Ladner Construction, Chicago
landscape architect: Peter Lindsay Schaudt Landscape Architecture, Chicago
project size: 1,152 square feet
site size: 0.038 acre
construction cost: $260 per square foot
photographer: William Kildow