After completing the artist loft spaces on Milwaukee Avenue, we have been asked to reconstruct the currently dilapidated rear exit porch and stair. However, instead of reconstructing the stair only to serve the purpose of an emergency exit and, what will certainly become, a tenant storage annex, we thought, ‘What else could it be?’. One the the reasons many rear porches end up as overflow storage for residents is because Chicago porches are not particularly inviting places to spend time. They are only designed for the one purpose of exiting, and stairwells tend not to conjure up thoughts of a welcoming space. This isn’t to say that utilitarian spaces can’t be beautiful, however, in this case, they aren’t.
If these exit stairs have to be built, consuming resources and floor space, why not make them quasi extensions of the living space, while still letting them serve the code required purpose of exiting? So, what if the rear porch was passively ventilated, had ample natural light, introduced a growing space for urban agriculture, collected rain water, and grew a tree? Our proposal, shown below, serves these various purposes, making this exit a place you would rather enter.