This is a tremendous moment … the most tremendous of moments. It is time for the 6th Annual 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition! (Hopefully, you heard La Virgen de la Macarena in your head when you read that last sentence – I know I did.)
Many of you will remember that last year I tried an experiment and partnered up with Houzz in an effort to broaden the reach and exposure of the event. While I would say that the overall event was a success, I heard your feedback and decided to move the competition 100% back on to my site. While this means a lot more work for me, I think in the end it supports my goal of making this a truly open competition that is available to everyone regardless of their geography or experience level. To that end, let’s get to the details of 6th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition!
Who can enter?
This competition is open to anyone from anywhere – the only entry criteria is the following:
- You have to be a living member of the human race (or at least be able to fool others into believing that you are).
- A good attitude should also be a requirement but that’s more of a personal judgment call.
- Capable of reading and following the instructions that are spelled out very clearly below.
That’s pretty much it, so there really isn’t a good reason not to participate. Oh, wait a minute … did I forget to mention that there’s no fee required to enter!?! It just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it? If I am going to ask for you to flex your design chops to benefit needy kids, I’m sure as heck not going to ask you to pay for the privilege. I will raise all the money needed to run this competition and build these playhouses, all you need to do is design.
What do I submit?
All submissions are required to be in electronic form with a file size not to exceed 5MB (give or take a fe KB’s, I’m not heartless). For the judging process, you should submit plans, elevations, sections, perspectives … whatever you feel best conveys your design. Whichever drawings you do choose to create need to be arranged 24″ x 36″ and vertically oriented – it is very important that you follow these submission guidelines. I would humbly request that no animations be submitted (and by “humbly request, I mean “don’t send in any animations”.)
This next part is really important …
**You are not required to generate construction drawings unless your design is selected as a winner**
Next step … fill out this form to let me know you are planning on submitting –
The judging process will be handled in two rounds; the first round will be a review of all the entries reviewed by me for conformance to size requirement judged by up to 4 other all-star type people. The number of qualified entries we receive will determine how many entries will advance to the final judging round but I am shooting for around 25 to 30 entries. The criteria used for judging will be:
- buildability, and
- the ability of the playhouse to be built for approximately $5,000 in material costs
When it comes to how much these playhouses cost to build, there are a lot of people who don’t know how much stuff actually costs … and that’s okay. The point is that you need to be mindful of the cost as you are designing your playhouse. This means that designs that require CNC routers, GFRG castings, or cast in place stainless steel (or any kind of stainless steel), will most likely not advance to the final round. I would also strongly advise you to avoid using any glass block if you want to get past my personal prejudices regarding that loathsome material.
Entries can be submitted by individuals or by a team, it doesn’t matter and it will not be a consideration during the judging. I will also feature all the entries that advance on to the final judging round here on the site.
Registration starts immediately – fill out the form above and you are good to go! As of January 31st, you have approximately 10 weeks to develop your concept and prepare your digital submission board. Designing these playhouses should be fun and as a result, don’t have to be so complicated that you have to design some new algorithmic computer software to help resolve your plan geometries.
April 9th (late Sunday night) – design submissions will be due. Don’t worry about the time differences, as long as I have your entry when I make it into the office Monday morning you should be fine. Entries are to be a 24″x36″ vertically oriented JPG file format emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (please compress your file so that the size does not exceed 5MB). In the case of multiple entries by a single designer (defined as a single person or one group), please send each entry by itself. Do not place any personal information (like your name, firm, etc) on your digital submission, I like to keep the judging anonymous – but I would like you to name your file with your actual name (i.e. bobborson2017playhouse.jpg)
April 14th (Friday) – Initial round of judging to occur at my house with all-star celebrity judges (they must be willing to travel to my house for a night of food, libations and spirited playhouse design conversations).
April 17th (Monday) – Finalists are announced here on the Life of an Architect website.
April 21st (Friday) – Final round of judging will occur by an all new group of all-star celebrity judges
April 24th (Monday) -The winners are announced here on the Life of an Architect website. If you are selected as a winner, look for an email from me that confirms what happens next.
May 22nd (Monday) – Construction documents are due to the contractors (4 weeks to complete – easy). IF you can get them done sooner, I’m sure the contractors would appreciate the additional time to build your playhouse masterpiece. All playhouse design competition winners are required to prepare construction drawings for their entries which will be submitted to their designated contractor. In the possibility that you are unable to prepare your own construction drawings (because you don’t know how, not because you get busy with other things) with a little heads up, I have people who have offered their time and skills to prepare constructions drawings on your behalf. Seriously?!? How many competitions have that offer on the table? You will need to let me know once you are notified as a winner that you cannot prepare your own drawings, not when they are due.
May 22nd through July 4th – construction of the playhouses.
The Playhouses will be on display from July 7th through July 23rd and if you think you would like to come see your winning playhouse – along with all the others – on display, please let me know and I’ll roll out the red carpet for you.
So, What do you get out of this?
Other than being a decent person and helping out some kids who need all the help they can get, if your playhouse is selected as one of the winners (yes, there will be more than one winner), you receive:
- your playhouse will get built and will be part of the Dallas CASA Parade of Playhouses
- you will get profiled here on this site – priceless as every architect living that has internet access reads this site daily*. Your fame as a designer will be boundless**
(**also an estimate)
- you will receive my undying gratitude for participating (actually, everyone will receive this particular “prize”)
- A one of a kind, handmade by me, trophy commemorating your participation and win. This is what they will look like – I am currently making both the 2016 and 2017 versions (the 2016 people had to wait a long time (sorry), but you 2017 winners will not)
There might be other things but that should (hopefully) be enough to get you to enter a design … like winning a bunch of amazing prizes for SketchUp!
For the second year in a row, I’ve been working with the fine folks over at SketchUp. Not only have they enthusiastically agreed to participate in this years playhouse competition, they will be underwriting the construction of two of the Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition playhouses. I have created a special “Best of SketchUp” category to showcase the skill of the best winning design that uses SketchUp software. Considering that over the last five years almost every single entry I have received was created in SketchUp, this collaboration was a no-brainer. In addition to their amazing financial support, they have put together an incredible prize pack!
The Grand SketchUp Prize
- A free SketchUp Pro license
- A credit to get the SketchUp Viewer (on iOS or Android) for free
- A free trip to our next 3D Basecamp (Really!)
- A 3Dconnexion Space Navigator
- A SketchUp swag bag
- And… your playhouse will get built!
There will also be five honorable mention finalists who will each receive a SketchUp prize pack, including:
- A Space Navigator
- A SketchUp Viewer
- And a pair of our most excellent, limited edition (of course) SketchUp socks. It’s almost like you don’t even have to win to win.
How will we pick a winner for the SketchUp prize? Great question. The first phase of winner selection will be in Bob’s capable hands. Out of the finalists for overall Playhouse Competition, we’ll sort out which entries were designed in SketchUp. (If we’re not sure, we’ll ask!).
From there: the winning SketchUp Playhouse will exhibit the following criteria:
Excellent use of fundamental SketchUp skills: component-based modeling, scene composition, texturing, high-quality vector linework. And even more stuff like that (which you can learn here on the SketchUp blog).
The use of simple, interesting forms in service of a terrifically fun idea.
Post-processing: we want to see smartly rendered scenes that allow your idea to be clearly communicated and look great too.
Graphic Design: Your proposal has a beautiful graphic layout. Your idea is great; your proposal is even better.
Efficient construction: we’ve got the bill, but you’ve certainly considered the time and cost of construction for the project in your design thinking.
If you want, here is a link to every post I’ve written on Playhouses some of these posts include the actual construction drawings used to build the playhouse. You will also find past entries to see how presentation boards were assembled, loads and loads of valuable data. Everything that you want to know can be found in these previous posts, so use this resource wisely, Grasshopper.
Who is this playhouse competition benefiting?
Dallas CASA (which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a nonprofit organization of community volunteers trained and supervised to serve as voices in court for abused and neglected children. On any day in Dallas County, there are nearly 2,000 children waiting for a safe place to live. Many times the CASA volunteer is the only constant in the child’s life during this very difficult process. Parade of Playhouses raises funds for Dallas CASA to continue serving more children who need safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.
Important Considerations for your Design (aka “How to win”)
Size Guidelines – stick to them!! These restrictions are in place so that the playhouses can be moved through doorways and positioned in NorthPark Mall while the raffle is taking place. As a side note, this mall is the best one in Dallas and the display of the playhouses coincides with some other events occurring at the mall during the same period. If your playhouse is selected, it will be seen by approximately 2 million people. WOW!
You’ll need to know some basic parameters in order to actually design one of these playhouses. Click here for the playhouse guidelines – this is the document that tells you the size constraints. This is very important!!
Protection – since these playhouses are on display in a mall, they must have all openings either closed or protected so that enthusiastic children don’t actually play on the playhouses during this time. A common solution is to put Plexiglas over the openings, but the amount of openings in your design can make this solution difficult to execute. Things like slides and rock walls are extremely frowned upon because they are difficult to protect without resorting to making a giant Plexiglas cover. Think of these playhouses more like little buildings than structures you would find on a playground.
This should be a fun thing for you to do and the end result could be that your playhouse gets designed and raffled off to benefit some needy kids. Doing this sort of work is what fills your karma tank up … and the effort required is minimal unless your design wins and even then – not so much work. I really hope that I can get a good showing so that I can go to more people in the industry for funds next year and build more of these playhouses. Every part of this process will be well documented and represented here on the site, I hope you come along for the trip.
By submitting a design to this competition, you agree to allow Life of an Architect, Bob Borson, and Dallas CASA the rights to use and display your design for the purposes of construction and promotion. You will still retain the rights to your design and you will receive full credit and recognition for your effort. Just a reminder that this is a charity event and if things go well, your playhouse will be selected and we will build it but we also might have to modify your design to make it:
a) within budget, and
b) buildable within certain parameters such as time constraints, material availability, etc.
That’s it for now – please consider participating. It’s good for the kids, it’s good advocacy, it’s good to show how architects and designers can use their skills to benefit a community … everybody wins.
Keep on being awesome,
** In case you to get the full auditory experience: La Virgen de la Macarena performed by Arturo Sandoval