This last Saturday didn’t go exactly has I had planned but I did manage to get the construction drawings done on my bird house themed playhouse. This is my own personal entry into the Dallas CASA Parade of Playhouses event and despite the fact that I thought I knew what I was doing, I ended up changing the design along the way.
In other words, typical architect.
The 3D image above is a SketchUp model of my original design and to be quite honest – I thought I had it all figured out. I left the house at 7:00am Saturday morning, told my wife I would only be gone a few hours – just long enough to prepare the construction drawings on this design – and I would be home “probably by noon”.
And then I got to work and starting redesigning everything and my noon deadline found itself closer to 5:00pm before I had this design worked out and drawn up in AutoCAD. Normally the way I work when I am the sole participant in the design/construction drawings process is that I work the design ideas out in my head, move onto to sketch paper to fully realize the intent, direction and scope, then onto SketchUp to build a quick 3D model to make sure that my scale and proportioning is correct, and finally into AutoCAD where I finesse the design and details so that the contractor is happy and I know that I will get what I am looking for in the final product. On projects as small as these playhouses, the entire process normally doesn’t take longer than 8 to 12 hours total.
I ended up changing almost everything except the initial design concept … but I am happier with this new product than I was with the previous bird house themed playhouse design.
This is the front elevation and you can tell (if you’ve looked at the old design) that I modified the width, height and roof pitch on this latest design. There is a shape in my mind of the “classic” bird house – one that is not so dissimilar to the sketches small children (and bad architects) come up with when you ask them to draw what a house would look like. The main materials will be white-painted cedar shingles with an accent band of periwinkle blue.
This is the rear elevation and also the side with the operable doors. That’s right, I don’t actually expect anyone to actually enter and exit through the circular opening in the front. The original design had a single door in the front but I decided that it cluttered up the purity of the form – so I moved it to the back. Once it was in the back, it became obvious that a single door was going to mess up the purity of the form regardless of where it was so I changed it into a pair of doors and had the top of those doors follow the roofline – again, my attempt at maintaining the classic shape of the building.
From this side view, you can see that there is a compact but roomy enough deck out in front of the bird house. I know that this is where I would be spending my time if this playhouse ended up in my yard. Pretty sure I know how I would use the “perch” as well. Can’t figure it out yet? Read on, I confess my intent at the end of the post.
This is a section cut through the playhouse looking out towards the front. I added a counter here should someone what to actually do something on the inside.
I know this is not what most people think of when they imagine a “playhouse” – and I can’t really argue with them on that point. This is like the 10th playhouse I’ve designed to this event in the last 6 years and I have some of my own rules that I follow. I do not like “Disposable Architecture” and I am worried that this is what most playhouses will end up being. I don’t like the idea that someone will grow tired of their playhouse after a month and then all that’s left is the semi-quick decay of this abandoned structure ignored out in some side yard of someone’s house. Every playhouse I design, I approach it with the same two guiding principles:
- It has to be something that I would put in my own backyard, and
- It has to serve a purpose beyond the initial 4 week period of interest.
In the case of this bird house themed playhouse, it’s really a storage building or potting shed. The deck in front is large enough for two grown-ups to sit and watch their children run around the yard. The bird “perch” would be where those grown-ups might put their drink should they be so inclined. The entrance to the “bird house” is because I live in Texas and if there wasn’t a way to get some fresh air into the interior, people would start referring to this space as “The Box” which is where misbehaving prisoners (or children who didn’t eat their broccoli) would be forced to go.
Even a playhouse should be more than disposable architecture – at least that’s what you should expect from an architect.
I’ve made it a habit to put all the construction drawings for my playhouse available to whomever would want to build one for themselves.
ps – I’m pretty confident that some actual bird houses will show up on this playhouse, I just starting thinking that it would be far more meaningful if I got the guys who will actually be building this playhouse to be a part of the design process. In a very real way, this is their charity playhouse as much as it is mine.