Tomorrow is the final judging for the Dallas CASA Parade of Playhouses. 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.I thought it would be a great to try and connect to aspects of my life together and get the AIA to have a design competition open to architectural students, interns (graduates with architectural degrees) and young architects (those are define as architects who received their license within the last 10 years). I went out and reconnected with an old friend who is a VP at Spring Valley Construction and got him to sponsor the building of 4 playhouses. The preliminary entries were received on April 28th, we had two groups totaling 9 people evaluate and score the 43 entries we received, and we advanced 18 onto the jury round. That’s what is happening today (May 7th).
Since I am sitting on the judging panel, I removed myself from consideration and did not enter the competition. When I told this to the people I worked with on last years entries, they really wanted me to design the entry for the event’s title underwriter – ORIX USA Corporation. I eventually agreed because I was unsure what type of turnout we would have on the competition and felt that I didn’t want to embarrass myself. It dawned on me that I had mentioned that I would publish the winning entries but in an effort to make sure no one thinks I stole someone else’s idea, I had better put my design out for consumption. I had been holding off so others wouldn’t see what I was doing prior to the entries being submitted – which sounds a little cocky.
I sent some preliminary still shots off to Dallas CASA right after my Arkansas trip which is where I found some of my inspiration in revisiting some of the work of Fay Jones. ORIX wanted their entry to reflect that it is a Japanese company. It’s pretty challenging to do anything that can express Japanese architecture, at least what comes to most people’s mind, without breaking the bank to get the materials and the craftsmanship right. Oh yeah, and it all has to fit within the size parameters of an 8’x8′ cube. The size constraints were set so these playhouses could fit through the doors where they will be on display.
I have some pretty strong feelings that any of these folly type designs need to have a shelf life to them. In my mind, that means they have to be multi-purpose. I know that if I consider what I would like to see in my own backyard, it needs to appeal to me and my child.
I wanted to give the impression that the building was elevated above the ground plane (like a house on stilts) so I intentionally stripped down the sheathing on the lowest portion of the playhouse. This will also have the benefit of allowing air to flow through the playhouse – an added benefit for our hot climate in Texas.
To keep it interesting and increase the “playability” of this playhouse, there is a rail that wraps around the inside at a height of 20″, perfect for small children to place objects on. Set on top of this rail is a band of homosote – a type of pressed paper board that can be tacked onto. The children can pin up anything from drawings to leaves and flowers in here and really lay claim to the space as their own. You can see in the very first image above that the entryway has been scaled down to a child’s proportion – further identifying the space within as child’s domain.
It was important to me to research Japanese structures and how they were traditionally built, roof pitch, angle of the slope, joinery, etc. When it became obvious to me that I couldn’t pull off most of these intricate and expensive details, I concluded that the spirit of rural Japanese structures shared a connection with the work of Fay Jones. The attention to scale and how multiple smaller members were combined and layered together to achieve the work of larger sections. Some of the images I referred to during my initial research are included below.
I prepared a short 3d animated video from the 3d model and have inserted it here – if only I could figure out how to embedded it into this post. Something new to add to the list of things to figure out but it won’t be tonight.
Cheers and thanks for reading.