Arcbazar Helps Chicago Homeowner Update, Expand, and Renovate Century Old Row House


The row house is a common fixture of many European and American urban landscapes. Also known as a terrace(d) house or a linked house, these familiar dwellings typically follow a standard formula: a series of identical or largely similar homes of two to three stories all sharing common side walls. Originating in Paris in the late 17th century, row-houses can now be found in every corner of the globe. Though perhaps more ubiquitous in Europe, row house neighborhoods quickly spread through many American cities with each one exhibiting unique local characteristics.

In Baltimore, Maryland, row-houses crafted out of “formstone” can be found which date back to colonial times. In New Orleans, row-houses line the streets of the French quarter, their porches looming over pedestrians below. In New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston you can’t go more than a few city blocks without strolling by the brownstones which distinguish many boroughs and neighborhoods. And though each city’s row house neighborhoods have distinct stories and histories, perhaps none are more unique than those found throughout America’s third largest city – Chicago, Illinois.

The row houses in Chicago exhibit many characteristics which are atypical of those found elsewhere. For instance, Chicago is populated by many “greystone” buildings which are constructed of Indiana Limestone, a building material not commonly found in other cities. Chicago’s row houses also have many irregularities from one to the other; unlike many cities, Chicago’s row houses have many variations in construction, height, and separation which differ from local region to local region. Yet, one consistency lies in the fact that the majority of row houses in Chicago were constructed in the 1880s near downtown. For homeowners and row house occupants, this means that mindful upkeep is not only necessary, but costly as well – laden with the challenges caused by each structure’s irregularities. This was the problem faced by Colin, the patriarch of a six-person family which was moving into a recently purchased row house in Chicago in desperate need of an upgrade. In order to work around many unique architectural challenges, while also adding outside-the-box ideas and working on a tight budget, Colin hosted his project on

Arcbazar, the first-of-its-kind crowdsourcing platform for architectural design services, facilitated a competition in which architects and designers from around the world competed for Colin’s heart (and prize money) by submitting their best designs to meet the conditions of Colin’s project. After uploading all the conditions and stipulations required by law, by the unique dimensions and requirements of house, and by preference, Colin launched his first project with Arcbazar. Colin’s project ran for 4 weeks, with 8 designers and architects submitting their plans before its conclusion (see all submissions here). By the end of his contest, Colin felt that “Overall experience was great; [the architects] were very responsive to questions that we had, and the designs submitted were overall very good.”Arcadia Design from Washington, DC, submitted the winning design entry for Colin’s design contest on Arcbazar.

In addition, Colin got the designs he valued at a price that still left him some breathing room: “If I had hired an architect first, and then asked him/her to draw eight different designs with conceptual and dimensions, they would have been happy, and I would have spent every last dime I have for the renovation on architect fees. This worked exactly as we had hoped, if not better.”

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