Last fall Ankrom Moisan hosted an internal Small House
Competition. The challenge posed to our designers was to develop a small house prototype
that could potentially fit into atypical sites along Martin Luther King Jr. Way
in Seattle. Sound Transit recently finished a long stretch of light rail
running through southeast Seattle, and in the process of the development they
had purchased small, oddly-shaped land parcels to use for construction staging.
Considered unviable by developers, these now-vacant sites can be purchased
below Seattle’s pricey land values. To encourage development along the transit
corridor, the City of Seattle has offered flexibility with zoning requirements
to builders willing to take on the challenge.
Ankrom Moisan Project Manager and Architect, Wendy Lamb was
inspired to host this internal competition after talking to Sharon Lee,
Executive Director at the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), an organization
that owns and operates housing for the benefit of low-income, homeless, and
formerly homeless people in Washington State. AMA has worked closely with LIHI on
several projects and is passionate about helping the organization gain as much
traction as possible.
In collaboration with LIHI, design competition requirements were
established. They dictated that the homes provide permanent housing for families
of two or more people. A separate bathroom was required, as well as
accommodations for cooking, clothes washing, and refrigeration. Designing for cost-effective
construction with low maintenance, durable materials was encouraged.
Entrants had four weeks to complete their designs. The all-female
judging panel consisted of Sharon Lee; Elizabeth Rinehart, Senior Project
Manager at Walsh Construction; and Leann Crist, Architect at Graham Baba
Architects. After two days of deliberation, the judges made their decision.
Portland’s winner, Architectural Intern Will Zenk, submitted
a project entitled “[re]FRAME.” Will is from Hawaii, and his design was
inspired by the many families who have been displaced in his home state. He
feels that small houses could be an affordable solution to Hawaii and other
states dealing with housing crises.
Will’s design reimagines transitional housing, realizing the
potential of small sites that have previously been overlooked. This allows the
transitionary population to be reintegrated into the larger fabric of the
The design is distilled from a modern interpretation of the
traditional Pacific Northwest home. [re]FRAME homes are designed to provide
each tenant with the essentials of dignified living: private bathroom, kitchen,
dining/living space, and a bed for each occupant. Each home also has a front
Will Zenk's design.
Will says, “The front porch was a crucial part of the design
as it is one of the most iconic elements of homes in the Pacific Northwest. The
front porch has long represented the American ideal of family and community—a
zone that can be shared between the home and the community.”
Seattle’s winner were Interior Designers Ashley Seefeld and Sarah Pride, whose
design was entitled “Tiny Hideaway.” Ashley and Sarah began by
drawing inspiration from the simple houses children draw, and then using that
as a base, added elegant touches.
On their inspiration for the project, the team said
that they first considered which elements make a house truly a home. They
decided that it is the people, the personal flair, the dog bed in the corner,
and the shoes strewn in the middle of the floor.
According to Ashley, “We took the most iconic, elementary
idea of a house – and turned it into a beautiful, simplistic and affordable
home. We stretched the walls and roof line of a basic gable roof home to create
a modernized beautiful structure that provides ample space for everyday
Ashley Seefeld's and Sarah Pride's design.
The exterior materials were carefully selected to be
durable, low-maintenance, and cost effective over the complete life cycle of
the building. The aesthetic of the house is meant to blend in to the
surrounding landscape and existing architecture of the neighborhood. The team
chose materials that grow over time, just like the homeowners who would live
Later that week, LIHI hosted its annual Gala & Auction
at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. The event raised over
$490,000 for LIHI's supportive services, Urban Rest Stops, and Tiny Houses. Both
AMA small house projects were displayed on large poster boards
at the event.
Going forward, AMA hopes to host future competitions and
possibly see design concepts built. We firmly believe that housing that fills the needs of all people is a valuable
and necessary contribution to the community.