Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand

April 5, 2012 — 24 Comments

Bob Borson in Dallas and Dr. Mark in New Zealand

The other day I received an email that made a ho-hum day into a really good one. The email I received was from Mark Staiger, a person I have never met before. Mark lives in New Zealand and saw the Japanese style playhouse I designed back in 2010 and decided this would be an appropriate addition to his Japanese themed garden he has been working on the last several years. He decided he was going to try to build this playhouse himself using the drawings I posted online and by referencing the construction progress photos I took.

Not only did he build it, it actually looks like the original design!


Japanese Payhouse- Life of an Architect 2010

The Original – my Japanese Playhouse from 2010

I get a lot of emails from people who say they are going to build one of the playhouses I have designed and in every email exchange, I always add “send me a few pictures when you’re done” and guess what?

… they never send pictures.

Maybe it’s because things didn’t go well or their enthusiasm waned between the time they sent me the initial email and actually starting the project – I don’t know. When I received Mark’s email, it contained lots of pictures and his finished playhouse looked very well done.


Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - framing and Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

Japanese Playhouse in New Zealand - Matt Staiger

I loved this email for many different reasons – 1) because someone actually built one of my playhouses, 2) they live in New Zealand, 3) they did a great job using information I posted for free here on my website, 4) his daughter is adorable and looks happy to get a playhouse in her backyard that was 5) built by her Dad …

… but one other reason I loved this email is proof positive that smart people read this website!!

Yes, I decided to do a little Google search on Mark Staiger PhD and a lot of interesting things that made no sense to me were discovered.

Bio – Dr. Mark P. Staigera senior lecturer in the  Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Research Interests and Publications: Structure-property relationships of materials; bioresorbable metallic biomaterials; porous metals; electrospinning of nanofibres; all-cellulose composites; bio-composites; biofoam/aerogels; biomaterials; spinal fusion device development


For some light reading, here is a paper he worked on: ‘Amyloid fibrils as functionalizable components of nanocomposite materials.’ (here)


One of the most rewarding aspects of writing a blog like this one is that you make connections at many different levels with people who either are amazing … or seem amazing. Either way there is an amazing in there. One of my initial objectives when I started writing this site was to reach out to people and make some sort of shared connection affiliated with architecture. Based on the pictures I received from Mark, I’d have to say mission accomplished.

Cheers to Mark for seeing this project through and taking the time to share it with me. I am hoping he’ll let me stay in the playhouse if I can ever manage to visit New Zealand.


ps – if you are interested in taking a look at the Japanese Playhouse that I designed I have included a few links below.

Japanese Playhouse – the construction documents

Japanese Playhouse – Complete!







Print Friendly

even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Pingback: Life of an Architect - Movie Theater Playhouse | Life of an Architect()

  • Pingback: Outdoor Movie Theater - 2015 Playhouse | Life of an Architect()

  • Pingback: The Lantern House - My 2014 Playhouse Design | Life of an Architect()

  • Great story and that playhouse looks very cool.  Great job both of you!

    • Thanks Brennan!

      Hope all is well, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Where are you living these days?

  •  Awesome story! And great looking playhouse too! I’d love to be able to build projects like this. The only thing I’ve ever helped build was a man-sized (with the arm in the armed position) counter-weight trebuchet for a physics project in highschool. Absolutely wonderful experience. Learned a lot from that project. Unfortunately the four of us (all friends) had no bloody idea how to build a trebuchet (or anything involving power tools for that matter), so I scoured the internet looking up the basic design and reading first-hand experiences of people who build these things as a hobby.

    We learned:
    1) Always have the right tool for the job. (We tried drilling 1-2 inch holes with a thin little drill bit which took hours over the course of several days…)

    2) Have as much detail designed on paper before going ahead with construction. (We had general sketches with some dimensions calculated, but nothing that constituted a proper construction drawing. We ended up spending a bit more than intended on material. The total weight of the counterweight + arm ended up splitting the pvc pipe we initially used to hold the system in place. It also bent a hollow steel tube to the point where it was unusable. Eventually, filling a second hollow steel tube with sand seemed to do the trick. No doubt we also used more wood than was necessary.

    In the end the thing turned out well (for highschool students with no idea what they were doing ;D) and the whole ordeal is one memory I will always cherish.

    I’d love another whack at building a second trebuchet… except this time there’s no excuse for a failed structural member as I’m supposed to be studying to become a structural engineer…

  • This is awesome, thanks for sharing!

  • architectrunnerguy

    That’s really cool Bob! When you decide to settle down and begin thinking about what you want to do with your life, you ought to give serious thought to becoming an architect!!


  • Mark Staiger

    Wow thanks for all of the nice comments guys. I looked very hard for a Japanese design and Bob’s was just perfect, I really just appreciated Bob making the design available for me to have a go at which is why I wanted to share this. As someone without any real building skills this was a serious challenge for me and I’m totally in awe that the original builders did the job in a few days! It took me a few days just to do the shingles. Thanks again Bob for such a useful and interesting blog which even non architects can appreciate. The playhouse is waiting for you when you get to Christchurch, but you will need to clear access with my daughter first 🙂

  • Oliviaaitken

    as a fellow new zealander, and from christchurch….excellent! 

  • maria

    Great Job Bob and Mark!
    both of you are great at multi media communications- photos and blog,
    GREAT builders, and design. for Mark to reconstruct Bob’s design -online no less-
    to a beautiful playhouse- WOW !
    Two lucky daughters ! with friends no less.

  • Wow! It looks great, AND is a great example of the impact of Social Media on our industry. 

  • MIchael Watts, Assoc. AIA

    Love the pics of construction timeline!
    and the finished product!
    Can’t wait to show this to our Cuyamaca Student Landscape Chapter!!!
    Thanks for the post!

  • Raymond Bowman

    Glue always sticks better if you write someone’s name with it. I always include that in my specs.

    • it’s a nice move for sure … it’s the little things, the attention to details that make all the difference

  • Bob this really is awesome. It is a great playhouse and having someone else recreate it must be such a compliment. Yea, blogging!!!

  • Love seeing the work and spread of great design. 🙂

    • Thanks Brian – easy to see why this made my day.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I hope Mark decides to swing through this post and see what people have to say. He should be proud of this accomplishment.

  • This is magnificent and made my day!  I am having SERIOUS Japanese themed garden envy.  

    • me too!

      I tried (unsuccessfully) to win my own playhouse that year. Maybe I should follow Mark’s lead and build it myself.


  • Spectacular!

    • thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Jody – I really appreciate it.

      Pretty neat isn’t it? AND a complete surprise. On some days, these are the things that make writing this blog worth it.

      • Very cool indeed!
        I’m still waiting on someone to build something off of my blog… Maybe an abandoned sardonic non-playhouse, somewhere in Eastern Europe… fingers crossed.