Wild West Story

This year, for the first time, I have submitted an entry into a design competition ‘2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition’.

It is an annual competition for anyone interested in design and helping children in need. The purpose of this competition is to pick the best designs for a playhouse, which will be built by the sponsor and then raffled for charity (Dallas CASA). The event will take place in July. So if you are from Dallas (who am I kidding, the only one who reads this is probably my mother – Hi mum!)  definitely check it out and you can win some spectacular playhouses.

Unfortunately, not this one. The competition was tough, there were more than a thousand of entries from all around the globe and the winners do look absolutely stunning. So I must admit the judges were fair and did not choose my piece of work. However, I believe I was a decent opponent to the winners. Let me know what do you think about my design? What should have I done differently? Leave a comment.


But I do not write this to brag about how I am the best, so let’s step down from my soapbox and get to the point.

The lesson I learned or rather reminded myself of, is the importance of scale. In the beginning, the playhouse looked very different. My first ideas took a direction to a cube with many openings and tunnels and paths to take. (There were size requirements of roughly 2x2x2 meter cube) And during the design of this first idea, I had to have in mind the size of the client. Children. And so I spend an afternoon making 1:1 scale mockups of some of the features. I made a mockup of an opening to see if an adult can fit there with some effort to check the children inside. It was made of just some furniture and boxes which were lying around. It served its purpose though.

I suddenly saw the world through the eyes of children. The size of everything was suddenly oversized. Designing for children is not the same as for adults. The scale was different. Designing it as it was a normal building would end oddly.

And then, few days passed and the idea I had at the beginning suddenly wasn’t so appealing. So I changed my constraints. The goals for my playhouse changed. I wanted it to be more than something the children will spend some time on and then they will move on. I wanted it to have a purpose beyond it. When the children grow up, the parents can use it as a tool shed. And I designed it in such a way that I would not be embarrassed to place it on my own (so far imaginary) garden. And from these, the wild west barn slowly emerged. I researched some of the typical American barn designs and I tried to recreate them at kids scale. Red Hardie shingles on the side, with an inch gap between them, to provide insulation in hot Dallas climate. Big sliding barn door in the middle. And two true western rocking chair to sip a cold pint of lemonade after the long day of hoarding the herds.

And I spent some time researching the traditional stud construction, so widely used in the US. Feets and inches, another enemy of mine during this process. And step by step the final form of the tiny building emerged.

When I look back now, there are some things that could have been done better. Overall I am satisfied though. If I could, I would be delighted to have this in my backyard.

And the most important thing, I hope the scale is right. It was not easy to create a mini barn. To me, it looks okay, but there is not much experience behind me yet. What do you think? Yay or nay?




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