Life of an Architect Playhouse Competition – 2012

January 31, 2012 — 24 Comments

Life of an Architect Playhouse Competition


I am excited to announce plans to host the first ever

Life of an Architect

Playhouse Design Competition

benefiting Dallas CASA! This is an event that is very near and dear to me and I have been working on a way on how to get more people involved for the last 5 months. This is my fourth year to be involved in this event, and it’s time to kick it up a notch!


Here is the short part – people submit playhouse designs, a group of judges pick the top two, and than they get built. How awesome is that?!!


Bug House - Dallas CASA Parade of Playhouses

‘Bug House’ – my playhouse design in 2011


Who can enter?

This competition will be open to anyone from anywhere – the only entry criteria is the following:

  • you have to be a decent member of the human race.

That’s pretty much it, so there really isn’t a good reason not to submit. Oh, did I mention that there’s no fee required to enter!! It just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it?


Japanese House - Life of an Architect Playhouse 2010

Japanese House – my playhouse design from 2010


What do I submit?

All submissions are required to be in electronic form with a file size not to exceed 5MB. For the judging process, you should submit plans, elevations, sections, perspectives … whatever you feel best conveys your design. Whatever drawings you do choose to create need to be arranged on a 24″ x 36″ board oriented vertically – this is very important that you follow these submission guidelines. I would humbly request that no animations be submitted.

**You are not required to generate construction drawings unless your design is selected as a winner**


How do I register?

Please send an email to me – and put “Playhouse Competition” in the subject line. In the email, tell me who you are, what you do (architect, intern, student, housewife, phlebotomist – etc.) and current location of residence (just city, state, country – I don’t need your home address). If you want to include some additional biographical information about yourself feel free. I will respond to your email and send you the design guidelines (these playhouses have to get moved around so there are size limitations).



The judging process will most likely be handled in two rounds; the first round will be a review of all the entries judged by me and up to 4 other people who will be chosen at a later date. 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 20%. The criteria used for judging will be:

  • creativity
  • appeal
  • originality
  • buildability, and
  • the ability of the playhouse to be built for approximately $4,000 in material costs

On the costs, there are lots of people who don’t know how much stuff costs and that’s okay. The point is that you need to be considerate of the cost as you are designing your playhouse – which means designs that require CNC routers, GFRG castings, or cast in place stainless steel will most likely not advance to the final round. Entries can be submitted by individuals or by a team, it doesn’t matter and will not be a consideration during the judging. I will also feature all the entries that advance onto the final judging round here on the site.



Registration starts immediately – so send me that email ( with “Playhouse Competition” in the subject line – remember?)

April 16th – design submissions will be due. Deliverable will be a 24″x36″ vertically oriented JPEG or PNG file format emailed to (file size not to exceed 5MB). In the case of multiple entries by a single designer (person or group), please send each entry by itself. Do not place any personal information (like your name) on your digital submission – I want to keep things fair during the judging process.

April 23rd – initial round of judging (by celebrity judges not yet selected) to bring number of entries to be judged to manageable number of finalists will be complete with the finalists announced here on the Life of an Architect website.

April 30th – the final judging round will be completed and the winners will be announced here on the Life of an Architect website.

May 28th – Winners are required to prepare construction drawings (with possible value engineering considerations) for their entries and submit final construction drawings to the designated contractors.


Playhouses will be constructed and ready for delivery to Dallas CASA by the beginning of August to be raffled off.


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 event that takes place later this year
  • you will get profiled here on this site
  • you will receive my undying gratitude for participating (actually, everyone will receive this particular “prize”)
  • you will receive one of my Life of an Architect t-shirts (retail value $20+ but the actual value is priceless)

There might be other things but that should (hopefully) be enough to get you to enter a design.


Reference information?

If you want, here is a link to every post I’ve written on the Parade of Playhouses (here) which includes construction drawings.


Information on Dallas CASA

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.


Final Plea

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.



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  • hirizjess

    Bob…Did you announce a winner? Or is the picture at the top it?

  • Pingback: So I entered a contest… « The Impetus()

  • Kristen

    I was looking for awesome playhouse designs – and I stumble upon an awesome playhouse contest. I may very well take you up on this one, as I will have to come up with a design for my sons some time before spring ends, so why not before mid-april?

    • it falls in line with the schedule for the entire process. The playhouses from this competition will be built for display along with several others and they aren’t due until the beginning of August.


  • Here’s what brings life to our work! what a fantastic program, Bob, brilliant! 

  • Excited…going to pass it around the office here and ask the hubby if he’d like to design something.  It could be a good feather for his one design class too 🙂  Great idea, Bob!

  • Sounds great 🙂 Any guidelines?

  • Glad you were able to make this work. I will be submitting. (as instructed per previous discussions) I will have two little consultants to help me out with the design program for sure.

  • Isabelle bryer

    your playhouses are lovely!

    • Thanks!

      Maybe this year I can see one from you 🙂

  • Bob, thanks for throwing this out to the teeming masses. Are we using the Dallas Casa Parade of Playhouses design guidelines for this one as well?

    • for the most part – yes. I have made some changes since the entrants are coming from all over the place. Once people email me and let me know that are are going to submit, I register them and send out a specific design guideline with some tips and recommendations.

      I hope you are going to enter – cheers,

  • Jack

    Sounds great… but is it 24×36 or 30×42? (conflicting info in the post).

    • 30×42 – sorry. I’ve gone back in a fixed that in the post (it’s what I get for writing these posts so late at night)

      Thanks Jack

      • architectrunnerguy

        I noticed the same discrepancy. And I use that term because is kinda like our constructions docs, they contain no errors, just discrepancies. 

        • that’s right Doug … no errors.

          I expect to see your name on an email by the way 🙂

        • Jack

          Yep… I was going to say, this is why I don’t label framing sizes in the section, when they’re already noted on the framing plan. Or at least, why I shouldn’t do that.

  • Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Fabulous idea!  And what fun to let one’s inner child go wild.  Where are my Crayons??????

    • By all means – have some fun with it!

  • oooo. can I be a judge? or a celebrity?  working with my Princessitects of course.

    good things here Bob!

    • I haven’t spent any time thinking about who the judges will be just yet – it’s possible that the final decision will take the form of a fan favorite vote. Of course, that would involve some technology that I have yet learned how to set up properly.

      We’ll see what happens!

  • Kyle

    I’m excited for this. I be starting ASAP