Microhousing for Those Without

Hosted by AIA Chicago, the Tiny Homes competition sought a new typology of housing to address needs of the 18 to 24 year old homeless population living in the Chicago area. Unsheltered, or even sheltered youth (those living in homeless shelters) do not have the daily permanence or security provided by a consistent and stable residence. Even those staying in shelters overnight are typically ejected from the shelter each day, further hindering their ability to obtain a GED or maintain a job. Addressing the needs of this population at this age is a critical step in preventing future adult homelessness.

The competition brief identified the Tiny House movement and the emergence of Micro-Apartments as conceptual and development typologies to reference. Both have shared and fairly divergent qualities. Common to each is a pursuit for compaction down to bare essentials of space. While Tiny Housing focuses on creating opportunities of mobility and potentially off-grid freedom, Micro-Housing in urban contexts such as Seattle are driven by development pressures of high land values that can allow for 200SF apartments with rents of $1,000 or more. Trivers’ competition team members Neil Chace, Decorda McGee and Shaun Dodson submitted a proposal for the competition: Expanding Perspectives | Compact Living, which intends to blend the independence prioritized by Tiny Houses with the efficient use of communal space found in Micro-Housing communities.

Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, the micro-community is planned to be constructed on four vacant parcels. During the 1920s, the Bronzeville neighborhood attracted people from all over the southern U.S., leading to the creation of a vibrant Metropolis that emphasized upward mobility, achievement and success. As Bronzeville was a place of opportunity for African Americans moving to Chicago in the early 1900s, Expanding Perspectives would become a refuge for homeless youth trying to find their way in the Chicago urban fabric.

Fronting Vernon Street, the unique site is bound by an alley on both the South and West; an anomaly in the street grid, which creates the opportunity for a new housing typology to prosper. The Tiny Home modules energize and motivate residents and visitors by creating several unique spaces and experiences; places for rest and reflection, small interactions inside the space and larger social engagements in and around the communal structure.

The module itself features a bonus lofted area providing opportunity for an elevated perspective of both community and neighborhood. The added volume helps provide natural light while expanding potential for multiple experiences within the Tiny Home.

Arranged with an inward focus, the public space between structures creates an active community which enables a positive and confident upward movement in life for residents. Through the Tiny Homes project, Bronzeville can once again provide momentum for those seeking to better their future. Over time, as needs of this site change, the homes could be relocated to serve the next community of individuals in need, leaving behind communal space, a park, and neighborhood gardens.

Note: Winners of the competition were recently announced by AIA Chicago. Read more here: Although our design was not selected as a winning entry, the Trivers team hopes to use this competition entry to continue the important dialogue regarding homeless housing needs in and around the St. Louis community.

Posted by Shaun Dodson, Architectural Designer


Budgeting seems to be a great topic for the New Year since many may consider getting financials in order as a resolution for 2016.

According to Merriam-Webster:
budget definition

Creating a budget can be beneficial to all – whether incomes and expenses are large or small. It’s about implementing conscious decision making based on having a full understanding of your financial picture. Budgeting is a great tool to help work toward a goal such as building up savings or planning a vacation.

Perhaps more importantly, it is also a good chance to evaluate if what you are spending is in line with your priorities. For instance, if charity is important to you, are you as generous as you want to be? Do you really know how much you are spending on coffee or lunch out with friends? How does your current saving plan align with long term goals?

Now that we’ve established the importance of creating a budget, here is a step by step guide to help you get started. If you’re really excited, Microsoft Excel has some great budget templates available online. Otherwise, a simple spreadsheet format shown below will suffice.  

Step #1: Establish Monthly Expenses
Categorize your expenses over the past 2-3 months and come up with a monthly breakdown.


Step #2: Strategize Potential Modifications
Evaluate each category included in the breakdown and see if there is any change you want to work towards. Examples might include not eating out as much or changing the TV package if you aren’t taking advantage of it fully. It is also important to have some “fun” money… if the budget is too strict you won’t stick with it!


Step #3: Factor in Annual Expenses
Make sure to take into consideration annual or special expenses such as vet visits, car insurance, personal property tax and other non-recurring items.


Step #4: Implement
Pull it all together and decide if you can stick to the new budget. Work toward the goals you have set for yourself. A budget should be like bank reconciliation; check in monthly to verify you are staying on track. If not, take a step back and reevaluate to see if modifications are necessary.

Moral of the story: Knowledge is Power!


Good luck!

Posted by Ali Dougherty, Operations Administrator

Piranesi and the Missouri State Capitol

I have a very clear memory as a college student first discovering the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). I was particularly taken aback by the steam-punkish Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisions) convoluted volumes and complicated perspectives. I was reminded of those dreamlike spaces recently while visiting the Missouri State Capitol Building.



The Capitol is alike to Piranesi’s dark vision in that it is a huge building (covering nearly three acres) that was built in a Roman Revival Style with giant domes, vaults and galleries that intersect in spatially arresting ways. Touring the building, you will turn a corner and suddenly have a view through a series of juxtaposed architectural forms that can make you feel as if you are standing in a Piranesi print.



The building is also a little under-lit, creating a bonus mystique that draws the visitor forward into the next view. 

What is not like Piranesi is the wonderful decoration of the building interior surfaces. This explosion of art is the result of the previous Capitol building being struck by lightning in 1911 and fully gutted by the ensuing fire. Less than six months later, Missourians approved the issuance of $3.5 million in state bonds for the construction of a new building. The State miscalculated the revenue projections of the special tax earmarked for the project, and ended up with close to $1 million in excess funds. It was decided that the extra money would be used to decorate the building and a group of well-known (in the day) artists were hired, including Frank Brangwyn, N.C. Wyeth, James Earle Fraser and Alexander Stirling Calder.



A couple more views…




The decoration also includes some delightful surprises seldom seen in design and construction today.



To me, the most striking decoration is the muraled walls of the House of Representatives Lounge. Painted by Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton beginning in 1935, they depict bold and vivid scenes of everyday Missouri life. Entitled “Social History of Missouri” the paintings immediately sparked controversy and have survived a few attempts to whitewash them. Now they are a source of pride and a must-see stop on every visitor’s Capitol tour. I like to think that Piranesi would appreciate the complex and overlapping perspective views peopled with hard-working Missourians toiling to make a better world.


If you are a Missourian, you have probably visited the Capitol building in Jefferson City as part of a grade-school civics class tour to see State government in action. I suggest that you visit again, this time to see the building, the beautiful decorations and the wonderfully complex flow of interior space. I believe Piranesi would rate it five stars.

Posted by John Wilhelm, Project Manager