The 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition has officially come to a close – and from my side of the screen, the work is really just starting to kick into high gear. I have to start by saying that the level of competition has consistently increased every single year since I started this competition 4 years ago. There are always a few standouts, but the number of standouts keeps increasing. That’s why I am happy to announce that this year we are going to increase the number of playhouses that get built by 50%!
Of course, a 50% increase just gets us from 2 playhouses to 3 but still … I’m pretty happy about that. The other piece of good news is that every design entry that gets advanced into the final round will get a sweet award certificate acknowledging your accomplishment – and make no mistake, it is a big accomplishment. As I reviewed all the entries, I thought to myself (sadly) that I don’t think my own playhouse designs would make the final round in my own competition.
To give you an idea of just how big a deal this is, let me share with you the magnitude of the competition.
We had a total of 331 participants this year – with every occupied continent represented. The other thing that shows the extent of the competition is that we received entries from 59 different countries!
As happy as I am with the representation, 59 is a wonky number. I can virtually guarantee that my wife the math major would tell you that 59 is a good number since it’s prime, but we all now that there isn’t any balance or proportion to the number 59, therefore, it is an evil number. Is your country represented in the list above? If it isn’t, way to go – that evil 59 is on you.
The other major development is that I cashed in some of my chips to recruit some of my judges this year. We have a talented group judging both rounds – their abilities run far and wide – and I am very excited to be in the room as the entries are discussed and debated. For those of you that are new to this process, let me point out a few key pieces of information:
- The judges are typically consisted of:
- architects and designers (because it’s a design competition – duh)
- contractors (sometimes they’re the voice of reason, sometimes they’re wet blankets, but either way, they need to be included)
- children (representing the core demographic)
- “Dick or Jane Public” representing the public-at-large (typically this is someone whose first reaction when I ask them to be a judge is “why me?” which is exactly why I want them on the judging panel. Sometimes us creative types get a little too caught up in the idea behind what we are doing and we need someone to hit the brakes and say “WTF is that?”. I typically have at least one person from each of these categories for each round of judging.
- The first round of judging is tasked with reducing the overall entries down to a manageable 20 or 30 finalists – which is a lot harder than it sounds.
- The final round of judging is tasked with choosing the actual playhouses that will be selected for construction.
Even after being a part of this process for the past 4 years, I’m not sure which round is harder to judge – getting the total entries down to 30, or getting the final 30 down to the winning 3. I’m glad that my role during each round of judging is relegated to clarifying rules and requirements, topping off people’s drinks, and keeping score.
So now that we’ve set the parameters, let’s meet the judges for the 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition!
Brad Oldham and his wife Christy Coltrin
Brad Oldham is sculptor based out of Dallas, Texas but has projects all over the world. Brad and Christy’s company ‘Brad Oldham International, Inc.‘ is a design and manufacturing company specializing in sculpture, architectural features and commercial products that are customized for site-specific installation or created for retail distribution. I have known Brad and Christy for a while now and had the chance to collaborate with them on a project last year that had amazing potential but sadly didn’t move forward (which might have been for the best, it would have blown your mind!)
One of Brad’s latest sculpture’s actually took flight on to the roof of his building a few weeks ago – a 22-foot tall, 6-feet wide, 10-foot deep cast stainless steel bird weighing in at a cool 3,500 pounds. All you have to do is check out this instagram hashtag feed to see the impact this piece has had on the Dallas skyline since it’s installment just 19 days ago (April 4, 2015).
Clearly, Brad and Christy will bring a unique eye to the judging process.
Joe McCall, FAIA
If you are an architect in Dallas, you are familiar with Joe McCall. A noted and reputable designer with over 23 AIA award-winning buildings to his credit, there are so many accolades that you can share about Joe that they are too numerous to list. A quick rundown on Joe is that he received a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University, a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a registered Architect in the State of Texas. In 1999, Joe was elected to the national College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects for his advancement of the profession in design.
Joe has served as president of the Dallas Architectural Foundation, he regularly participates as a guest juror for design award programs, student juries, and has authored several published articles. He has been a guest speaker on design issues at numerous Texas Society of Architects State conventions and has served as a Visiting Instructor for the graduate design studio at UT Arlington School of Architecture, and he currently chairs the AIA Dallas Fellowship Committee.
Wow – that’s a lot of stuff. Joe is going to make an awesome judge.
Andrew Hawkins, AIA
Andrew is, well … he is a very good friend of mine. Secondarily to being my friend, he is also a talented architect. He has taken on numerous leadership roles in the Texas Society of Architects, he is a past President of AIA Brazos Chapter, and is the owner of Hawkins Architecture – a very successful firm based in College Station, Texas that completes a wide variety of projects but has a focus on Educational projects.
I have known Andrew for several years and he is a frequent contributor to the judging round of my competition. For those of you who know Andrew, it is easy to recognize his thoughtful intelligence and leadership qualities. For those of you who really know Andrew, you know that he can be a lot of fun to hang out with – and as a result, he has become the person that I spend most of my time with when we both attend the same conventions. The people in my office (lovingly) call Andrew my convention wife.
It’s a good thing my real wife likes Andrew as well.
The picture above is from last year’s first round of judging and true to form, Andrew is holding court with all the ladies while I stand off to the side drinking, telling stories, and not paying attention. See the guy that I’m talking to in the white shirt? The guy who is also not paying attention? Remember him, he’s going to show up next.
Barry Buford, President and Owner Buford Hawthorne Homebuilders
This is Barry, the guy who has built every single playhouse I personally have ever designed except one – and that was only because I designed two playhouses that year. Barry is also the contractor who has built a few of the houses I have featured here on Life of an Architect (the KHouse Modern and Cottonwood). He is one of the best contractors I have ever worked with and he happens to also be a good guy and friend despite the “Thug Life” picture he sent me for this post. This is what happens when contractors try to take selfies … I think he’s just tired but still, this is the picture he sent me so it’s what I’m going to use.
Barry is also a frequent contributor to the judging rounds on the playhouse competition – and with good reason. He has built more playhouses than just about anybody, ever. His job – and he relishes it – is to tell the other judges that something can’t be done unless it’s done a particular way (and that way is typically really expensive). At some point during the evening, after the more creative types in the room keep telling Barry “C’mon, it won’t cost that much”, Barry will become punchy and will start suggesting that everything should be CNC routed and cast in stainless steel since, apparently, construction is basically free. Right?! He will continue down this path until, eventually, magic will be his favorite construction method.
Stuart Sampley, AIA
Stuart is an architect based in Austin, Texas and is currently the sitting AIA Austin Chapter President. He runs his own practice – Stuart Sampley Architect – and does beautiful and considered residential work. I actually met Stuart for the first time last year when I was the speaker and host of the AIA Austin Design Awards Ceremony. That was a good night and as much as I don’t do very well with prepared speeches, the one I gave that night might have been the best one I’ve ever given. As a result, I apparently fooled Stuart well enough where he thought I would be a decent person to talk to for a while. Since then, we have become friends and I have come to appreciate Stuart, despite his architectural talents, for his wit and sense of humor.
Stuart doesn’t really set out to show you just how humorous he can be, but one such example of his humor can be found on his website. You can look through the photos of his completed projects, and in almost every set, you will find a picture of Stuart taking a nap. Sometimes he is easy to find, others might have him way back there in the back sleeping in a deck chair.
If it wasn’t going to be so obvious that I stole this idea from him, I would do the exact. same. thing. This alone makes him my sort of judge.
Steve Penson, Vice President Austin Commercial
Finally, because he probably deserves the most respect on this list, is Steve Penson.
Steve is a Vice President for Austin Commercial in Dallas, one of the largest, most diversified construction companies in the United States. Steve earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1986 and 1988 respectively. Prior to joining Austin Commercial, Steve worked as a project manager in Texas Instruments’ corporate real estate group where he was responsible for design and construction of state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facilities. He joined Austin Commercial in 1997 where he has led Austin’s Advanced Technology Division which is responsible for construction of micro electronics, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and mission critical facilities. Mr. Penson manages Austin’s Building Information Modeling, Project Management and Systems technology groups and is assisting Austin on its journey to become a Lean organization. He currently chairs the board of Fugasity Corporation, a semiconductor technology company, and is chairman of the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management Advisory Council.
I don’t have any silly stories or pictures of Steve, maybe that will change after he spends an evening with Stuart Sampley and myself. I got the chance to know Steve during the time he and I worked on a nice commercial project at my last firm. This was a big project for my firm, a big project for the organization who was paying for and going to use the building, but a very small project for Austin Commercial – not that you would have ever known it. I was concerned heading in to the project that Austin was so big and all-powerful that they were just going to take over and absorb everyone in to their way of thinking. What actually happened couldn’t have been further from that – they were thoughtful, patient, and made the entire process educational for all the people involved. I left thinking “If this is how they treat the little projects, how great would it be to work with them on a large one?”
Wouldn’t I like to find out?
So there you have it – fantastic participation from around the world, an amazing cast of judges, certificates for everyone who advances into the finals, and the news that we will be building a 3rd playhouse. It’s time for the judges to get busy, and it’s time for me to run home and clean my house (nothing like having a bunch of architects in your house to make you anxious). Be sure to check back this coming Monday – April 27th – to see the finalists in the 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition!