The 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition had its first round of judging last Friday – and it was probably the most difficult process we’ve experienced so far. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time, it had more to do with the extraordinary number of quality entries that were submitted. This year, the competition was the most diverse of all the years I have been doing this. We had over 1,100 registrations representing 85 different countries – and the overall quality of the designs is also improving. Last year, there was a large number of designs that were submitted that completely ignored the size restrictions (which unfortunately results in an immediate disqualification). We did not have that problem this year.
The biggest issue we came across this year, which is pretty much the main issue we face every year, is one of scale. While most of the judges are not architecturally trained, even they could spot a design that had scale issues. In fact, it dominated the conversation.
Let’s meet the judges, shall we?
The judges for this round consisted of:
Andrew Hawkins – Licensed Architect, owner of Hawkins Architecture, and frequent playhouse judge
Poul and Priscilla Ober – Poul is a professional photographer (check out Poul’s site) and Priscilla is a Graphic Designer and Director Creative at Mary Kay
Chris and Christa Dahlander – Chris is the founder and CEO at Snappy Salads, which has several amazing restaurants in the Dallas area, and Christa has an extensive background in radio, but now focuses her attention on the family business
Michelle Borson – for the first time, I asked my wife to participate because due to her relationship with me, she might be the most knowledgeable playhouse judge in the room. When she isn’t keeping me in the right place, she is Director | Indirect Procurement at Mary Kay
Landon Williams – Architectural Intern Extraordinaire at Malone Maxwell Borson Architects
And then there were our “Playability Experts” who represent the “target demographic.” I try and involve kids in the judging process every year because they don’t mess around. If your playhouse didn’t meet their expectations, it made your path to the final a little bit more difficult.
My role in this process is pretty straightforward … I am not a judge. My job is to make sure that the other judges know the rules, understand the guidelines, and make sure that they have everything they need to do their job. When everyone breaks for dinner, I tally the judge’s scorecards so that we can determine if there are any additional items that need to be reviewed (… there’s almost always something additional to review).
I will add that having judges with such diverse backgrounds is important because they tended to look at different aspects of each submitted design. There are a handful of designs among the finalists that would not be here if I alone were judging. This preliminary round of judging has a bit more fluidity to it that allows the judges to put a premium on creativity and concept since we are not actually going to build all 26 of these designs. Next week, when the judges will select the design that will actually be built, the criteria and examination will be much more rigid and thorough.
If you are one of the designers of the playhouse entries listed below, this is the prize you are guaranteed … a handmade (by me) 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Trophy. This year’s version is stainless steel with a clear-coat finish, with a Pecan wood base.
And now, the part you’ve all skipped ahead to see … The Finalists!!
Designers: Alisson Villarreal (Atlantico, Colombia) and Ricardo Cuevas (Atlantico, Colombia)
Bio (Alisson): I’m an Industrial Designer who shares a love for art, spaces, color, contrast and nature. When creating new concepts and ideas these passions are used as bases and the fun of mixing them all together. My field of experience resides in furniture and spatial design for both, commercial and residential. I work with an architect who is my friend too Ricardo Cuevas
Bio (Ricardo): My name is Ricardo, I’m a young architect from Barranquilla, Colombia; graduated from Universidad de la Costa CUC in my city. I work with a partner named Ali Villarreal, we design interior spaces for the people in our city. I love working on SketchUp/Layout, listen to music, the Italian food, the beach and see Pinterest.
Designer: Amrita Raja (London, United Kingdom) and Katharine Storr (London, United Kingdom)
Bio: We are based in London, though we met when completing our M.Arch at Yale. We both work at large architectural practices on international projects, but enjoy the challenge of designing small, community-based projects.
Designer: Ana Nenadic (Belgrade, Serbia) and Nikola Radojicic (Belgrade, Serbia)
Bio (Ana): In short, I’m just finishing my master studies and looking forward to the first project as a young architect. Besides a good sense of humor, I liked the idea of a truly open competition that is available to everyone and also a topic that is creative and imaginative. This is my first competition so I’m very excited.
Bio (Nikola): I am a young architect with a plethora of ideas which I want to share with the world. I enjoy all kinds of architectural competitions, be it large or small. I love them because they enable me to “spread my mind’s legs” and enjoy every step of it, alone or with a group of friends. I participated in a number of architectural competitions, some of which were rewarded.
Designer: Andrei Olkoski (Novo Hamburgo, Brazil)
Bio: I am an architecture student, I’m in the 5th semester and I’ve been working with custom furniture for twelve years. I have worked extensively in furniture manufacturing, but currently, I am in the engineering sector of the company working with Cad | Cam software.
The Sawtooth Roof Playhouse
Designer: Anirudh Govind (Bangalore, India)
Bio: I graduated with a B. Arch in 2016 and I currently work for a firm based in Bangalore.
Rubber Band Ball House
Designers: Aris Kafantaris (Tokyo, Japan) and Ana Paisano (Tokyo, Japan)
Bio: We are a team of two architects living in Tokyo: Ana and Aris. Ana is doing freelance design and photography work, while Aris works for a big company that eats up most of his time. We love playful designs and this is only our second time collaborating on something…so it is kind of an experiment for us too!
Designer: Becky Sturniolo (New York, USA)
Bio: I’m currently a first-year graduate student at Virginia Tech, studying architecture. My undergraduate degree is in Interior Design, from SUNY Buffalo State College. I love keeping busy and using my time to follow my passion and create cool things (like playhouses for kids! (and maybe for adults too because everyone likes to have fun)).
Play 2 Learn
Designers: Brad Baker (Maine, USA) and Sam Gerken (Maine, USA)
Bio (Brad): I am a designer in Portland, Maine. I received my BSA from Wentworth Institute of Technology and followed up a few years later with my MArch from Boston Architectural College. I have primarily worked in the healthcare sector during my professional career, but outside of architecture, I enjoy woodworking; designing and building furniture, tiny spaces, and well, pretty much anything!
Bio (Sam): I am a student at Wentworth Institute of Technology on CO-OP with WBRC architects. I have lived in Maine all my life with a passion for architecture which is growing every day. I run track for Wentworth as well as being involved in AIAS and the architecture program.
Designer: Brice Desportes (Valence, France)
Bio: Architects, designers, planners with a pinch of engineering we mostly think.
Designer: Chad Hurn (Oregon, USA)
Bio: Currently work at a company called King Retail Solutions that designs and fabricates retail interiors. My responsibility mostly deals with producing working drawings for the factory of various retail decor from very basic signage up to custom installations. The majority of my day is spent in Inventor with some exposure to Sketchup. But outside of work, I’m also an avid DIYer. Most of my free time is spent fixing our outdated 70’s house and hanging out with my wife and two-year-old son – who is starting to become tons of fun!
Designer: Christiaan Luijk (Cape Town, South Africa)
Bio: I studied Architecture at Cape Town University 5 years ago. I am now living in South Korea, teaching English. Loving life! Taking a break from everything, but damn, I do miss design.
Designer: Daria Veseneva (Moscow, Russia)
Bio: I am a retail designer and mother of 2 sons.
The Club House
Designer: Eloy Diaz Prado (Delicias, Mexico)
Bio: I just graduated Architecture school (technically was a year ago). I work in a little firm as an intern, and I like it… so far. I really want to learn every piece of information of the career and hoping to build something greater and better.
Catch the Wave
Designer: Zach Ouchley (Arkansas, USA), Yang Lo-Branch (Arkansas, USA), and Dawn Shafer (Arkansas, USA)
Bio: I am an architect working in Hot Springs, Arkansas. My passion is residential and sustainable design. I have a great team including an interior designer and an architectural illustrator.
Designer: Ján Olexik (Slovenská Kajňa, Slovakia)
Bio: I am a young architect, but I am not obsessed with architecture. I am obsessed with the world around, goodness, beauty, poetry and much more little wonders. This year I am going to marry my girlfriend so I need to start designing the playhouse where our future children, and then their children, will play.
Mail House Rock
Designer: Joseph McKenna (Washington, USA)
Bio: Originally from Idaho, now in Seattle via New Mexico and Germany, I’ve spent my professional career as a government architect. Most of my portfolio has involved educational facilities, with a smattering of industrial, administrative, and residential projects mixed in. In my personal life, I enjoy spending time with my kiddos, doing art/architecture projects, and listening to music. My big dream is to design and build a treehouse in my backyard … someday!
Designer: Kim de Haan (California, USA)
Bio: A Dutch-Aussie 20-something living in San Francisco. I studied interior architecture and worked for a small design firm I helped start up straight out of uni with some friends and a uni tutor. Worked there for 4 years before following my husband to the Bay Area so he could build electric cars. After floating around a bit working remotely I started designing and making architecturally inspired jewelry for fun. Started the new year with a new job at a wicked wood and metal fabrication shop on the end of a pier. Now working as an architectural designer/project manager/marketing assistant/graphics designer…anything I can get my hands on!
Designer: Marc Imlay (Utah, USA)
Bio: I am studying Architecture in Utah and also work as an Architectural Draftsman for a great firm in downtown Salt Lake. I like to travel with my wife when our schedules allow, design and build furniture, and of course, sketch different designs of buildings or anything that comes to mind. I also like photographing places that I go to and enjoying nature whether hiking, camping or just sitting on a log/comfy camp chair.
Designer: Mark Arel (Oregon, USA)
Bio: I am a non-traditional (read: old) architecture student at the University of Colorado Denver in the process of transferring to Portland State University. Tired of my current career, I went back to school to do what I wanted to do when I was in high school. I’ll be happy if I graduate before I’m 50.
Bronto the Dino
Designers: Marylis Rodriguez Beltran and Jean Carlo De Jesús Colón (Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico)
Bio: We are both Architects in Training from Puerto Rico, and we both recently completed our Masters in ‘Engineering Management’, with a specialization in ‘Construction Management’. Even though we live in different parts of the island (Jean is from Morovis and I am from San Juan), we have known each other for several years and our individual work, conceptually and aesthetically speaking, is very similar. That’s why we decided to join forces for this noble cause. I have also worked in several summer camps throughout the years. Working with children has been a very rewarding experience, which is why I feel very passionate about participating in the playhouse competition.
Designer: Michael C. Brown (Illinois, USA)
Bio: Licensed architect for the past 23 years. Love to draw and enter design competitions.
Designer: Michael Clouse (Rhode Island, USA)
Bio: I studied journalism and art in undergrad before returning to school to complete an M.Arch from RISD in 2015. I have been working in architecture visualization since. I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter and running when the weather is nice.
The Hide-Out Playhouse
Designer: Nerissa Fijal (Arizona, USA)
Bio: I’m 31 years old, originally from Puerto Rico, and currently live in Tucson, AZ. Over the past couple years, I’ve been away from the field of architecture and have been working full time for the Air National Guard. However, I miss my creative side and believe is time to begin pursuing my passion once again. This year I’ve started transitioning my focus back to design and thought that this competition would be a fun way to get my creativity reignited.
The White Owl’s Den
Designer: Nicollo Abe (Ontario, Canada)
Bio: I’m currently a student at Sheridan College, attending my third year of the Architectural Technology program. My hobbies include game developing, creating artworks, and uploading video content on my Youtube channel.
White Rabbit Playhouse
Designer: Noer Ucen Hong (Singapore, Singapore)
Bio: I am an architectural designer and 3D visualisation artist based in Singapore.
Designer: Riaan Kotze (Massachusetts, USA)
Bio: Hubby, father of 2 rascals, designer at Maugel Architects #awesome place, and a supporter of great causes.
Congratulations to the folks who are advancing on to the final round, but my most heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to everyone who participated in this year’s playhouse design competition. The effort it takes to prepare these designs is substantial and I am truly grateful, and I know that the kids who benefit from your efforts are grateful.
I am pretty excited about this group of playhouse designs and I think this year’s group of finalists represents some incredibly clever and original ideas. This time next Monday, I will be able to reveal the designer’s who have won this year’s competition and will be getting their playhouse built, and donated, to Dallas CASA. Just in case you are new to Life of an Architect – here is a little information on the Dallas CASA, and the volunteers that donate their time to help abused and neglected children.
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.
If you find that I have misspelled a name, left off a member of the submitting team – whatever – just send me an email and I will make the necessary changes to make things right.