Architects are known for their ability to see the entire problem and then to systematically go about solving that problem; it’s one of the traits that I find most admirable in the profession. The Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition is an event that brings out this trait during the process of designing what one the surface seems like a fairly straightforward problem – design a playhouse. With all the requirements, restraints, and aesthetic challenges that exist, designing and documenting a winning playhouse is no small feat.
This week we will take an up close and personal look at each of the three winning playhouse entries and the designer behind them. First up is “Ellie the Elephant” Playhouse Designer Andres Moreno, who currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, but is originally from Costa Rica.
Bio: I’m Andres Moreno, and I am originally from Costa Rica. I have been living here in this country for two and half years. I used to be architect in my country but I still working in design on the side. And now I’m seeking an entry-level position or internship that will allow me to apply my considerable professional skills from Costa Rica while also becoming better acquainted with the architecture field in the United States.
Surprise me with something: How to learn Spanish in Costa Rica in ten seconds? Hi: Pura Vida How are You?: Pura Vida I’m fine: Pura Vida Yes: Pura Vida Ok: Pura Vida Thank you: Pura Vida You’re welcome: Pura Vida Bye: Pura Vida “Pura Vida” means literally “pure life” and it’s pronounced like “poorah- beedah”. (No kidding)
How old are you?
I’m 32 years old.
Where did you go to school?
I have a degree in architecture from the University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Are you currently working and if so, what type of work do you focus on?
Before I came to the US, I was an independent architect in Costa Rica, focusing mostly on housing. I’m currently looking for positions in the Washington, D.C. area and would like to focus on urbanism. I still do design work on the side.
What lead you to enter the Life of an Architect Playhouse Competition?
A friend from Costa Rica sent me the link for Life of Architect last year. I participated in the 2014 competition, but my design wasn’t chosen. I thought about it and decided my design was more directed to adults than children, so this year I approached the design from the point of view of what appeals to children.
How long did you work on your design?
It took one week to come up with different ideas and sketches. Once I decided on a theme, I did an initial sketch and then it took three days to make changes and finalize everything.
What software did you use to create your submission board?
I used AutoCAD to draw the elephant, then SketchUp for the modeling and Lumion to render the model. I used Adobe Photoshop for perspective and Illustrator to make the presentation.
Was there one aspect of the design requirements that you felt was particularly challenging?
Making the construction drawings was a little challenging because I have always worked in metric units and had to convert to imperial units, but it all was fine in the end.
Have you ever designed a playhouse or similar small project like this before?
No, I haven’t. This is my first playhouse, but hopefully not the last. While I was in university I organized and participated in different projects with kids, creating urban spaces and painting murals.
How do you feel about having your playhouse be built for charity?
Fantastic! CASA is a great organization and I feel honored to be a finalist and have my design be built and donated for such an important cause.
How did you come up with your idea?
When the competition started, I had a lot of ideas and sketches, but my nephew inspired the elephant idea (he has a stuffed elephant named Ellie). My initial drawing was a very abstract elephant, but I was critical of myself and changed the aesthetics to find a way to get the attention of children.
Will you be coming to town to see it while on display?
I hope so. It would be very exciting to see the playhouse in-person.
Do you enter competitions with regularity?
I have participated in various competitions in the past and try to do 1 or 2 a year.
This is the original design submission that was evaluated during the judging rounds. The judges were drawn to the simplicity of the concept and the uniqueness of the playhouses shape. While considering all requirements for evaluation (creativity, appeal, originality, buildability, and construction costs) the judges felt that this design really addressed all 5 main considerations in a creative manner.
I typically try to be present when the playhouses are being delivered – it always an exciting moment. Normally there are about a dozen or so people, all nervously standing around as the playhouse they just completed building is hoisted up and carted off on a forklift. It seems as though there is always some concern that something could go horribly wrong (to my knowledge, nothing ever has).
So this is the completed entry for ‘Ellie the Elephant’ and I think it turned out wonderfully. The rounded plexiglas you see in the picture above is only there while the playhouse is on display and is not a part of the original design.
Yes … the ears do flap open and closed – a nice little detail (those ears are getting a workout while this playhouse is on display!)
I would like to sincerely thank the ‘Ellie the Elephant’ designer Andres Moreno for bringing his considerable talents to the 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition, and for giving us a design that is truly unique in this event. I would also like to thank Perk Homes for tackling the challenge of building a playhouse that didn’t just start off as a storage shed from the local big box construction warehouse.
(in case you are new to Life of an Architect – here is a little information on Dallas CASA, and the volunteers that donate their time to abused and neglected children)
Information on Dallas CASA:
Dallas 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.
There were three playhouse winners in this years design competition and tomorrow we will feature another playhouse and feature that designer.