2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition – The Winners

On Saturday, April 22nd – 6 highly focused and dedicated judges walked into my home with the task of selecting the winners of the 6th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition. This is no small task and while it may seem a fairly simple enough process to select awesome winning playhouses – it’s not. These are surprisingly complicated little buildings and the criteria for evaluation is specific, but yet open for a wide range of interpretation. The judges had to take the 26 entries that were advanced in last week’s finals round and eliminate all but three playhouses which will be built and donated to Dallas CASA (which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates) a nonprofit organization of community volunteers trained and supervised to serve as voices in court for abused and neglected children.

2017 Playhouse Judges Final Round

In all, the process took around 3 hours and there were some interesting debates over the different merits we were using to evaluate. The general concepts discussed were:

  • Overall Design
  • Appeal
  • Constructibility
  • Adherence to rules (mostly regarding the safeguarding of the playhouses while they were on display)

While I always think I want to be a judge during this process, I am normally glad that I am able to limit my responsibilities making sure that the judges have what they need to properly form their opinions. As always, the judging panel is made up of a wide variety of talents and opinions – something that I think is crucial to this process. I have no doubt that if I judged this competition by myself, the outcome would look slightly different.

But let’s get to the lucky winning playhouses!

2017 Life of an Architect – Winners

Riaan Kotze - Paw Rescue 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Winner

The Paw Rescue Designer: Riaan Kotze – (Massachusetts, USA)

Bio: Hubby, father of 2 rascals, designer at Maugel Architects #awesome place, and a supporter of great causes.

Surprise me with Something: I get fanatic about anything.

Christiaan Luijk -Autumn House 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Winner

The Autumn Cottage 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.

Surprise me with Something: I like to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before I judge them. That way when I do judge them, I’m a mile away and I have their shoes.

Nicollo Abe - The White Owl's Den 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Winner

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.

Surprise me with Something: In the past, my family simultaneously owned at least 10 domestic cats.

There were several playhouses that the judges wanted to single out with some sort of recognition, but these two particular playhouses were discussed at long length in the last round of deliberations and it was only by the slightest of margins that kept them from taking the place of one of the playhouses listed above. What this tells me, is that I need to start raising more funds so that I can select more playhouses for construction.

2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention LoaA 2017 Playhouse Design Competition

The 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.


The White Rabbit Playhouse Designer: Noer Ucen Hong (Singapore, Singapore)

Bio: I am an architectural designer and 3D visualization artist based in Singapore.

Surprise me with Something: I just started using & learning Sketchup less than 30 days ago.

In addition to the playhouses my judges selected on Saturday night, there was another room of judges located on the premises of SketchUp, that spent just as much time reviewing playhouse submissions.


For the second year in a row, I’ve been working with the fine folks over at SketchUp and not only did they enthusiastically agree to participate again in this year’s playhouse competition, they made a sizable donation to Dallas CASA that will underwrite the construction of two of the Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition playhouses. I have created a special “Best of SketchUp” category to showcase the skill of the best winning design that uses SketchUp software. Considering that over the last six years almost every single entry I have received was created in SketchUp, this collaboration was a no-brainer. In addition to their amazing financial support, they have put together an incredible prize pack, the grand prize of which includes the selection of one of the winning playhouse designs (that is chosen from last week’s list of finalists).

The SketchUp Grand Prize

Amrita Raja and Katharine Storr 2017 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Winner

The Playhouse Rock 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.

Surprise me with Something: We once picked 27 lbs of strawberries in one go … accidentally.  We didn’t realize just how quick it would be to pick berries, and consequently had to make 4 cakes and 3 pies the same afternoon, and still had 7lbs left over!

In addition to getting their playhouse built, Amrita and Katharine will also receive the following items:

There will also be five honorable mention finalists who will each receive a SketchUp prize pack. They are:

SketchUp 2017 Honorable Mentions

Play and Learn by Rafael Duailibe dos Santos

Moai Playhouse by Ján Olexik

White Rabbit by Noer Ucen Hong

Inside/Outside Playhouse by Vijay Panchal

Fort Beach by Ryan Heck

These five honorable mention finalists will each receive a SketchUp prize pack that includes:

  • A Space Navigator
  • A SketchUp Viewer
  • And a pair of our most excellent, limited edition (of course) SketchUp socks. It’s almost like you don’t even have to win to win.

I will be reaching out to each of the winners who were selected to have their playhouses built, as you are now officially on the clock for preparing your construction drawings – which are due to the contractors by Monday, May 22nd – which means you have 4 easy weeks to get your work done. IF you can get them done sooner, I’m sure the contractors would appreciate the additional time to build your playhouse masterpiece. As listed in the competition brief, All playhouse design competition winners are required to prepare construction drawings for their entries which will be submitted to their designated contractor. In the possibility that you are unable to prepare your own construction drawings (because you don’t know how, not because you get busy with other things) with a little heads up, I have people who have offered their time and skills to prepare constructions drawings on your behalf.

This has been another amazing year of entries, and I am extremely happy with the playhouses that were selected for construction. If you took the time to participate this year and were not listed among the winners, I am deeply sorry, but you should know that the quality of the entries is getting stronger and stronger every year and the competition is fierce. The only way I know how to try and level the field is to have more winners and simply build more playhouses – so that’s my goal for 2018.

I hope to see you all once again. My deepest gratitude to you all.


Bob signature FAIA