The Finalists – 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition

The Finalists – 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition … there are a lot of people from around the planet who are anxiously awaiting these results. The evening kicked off with the judges arriving at 6:00pm for a cocktail hour prior to beginning their duties as judges. Since I am the only person who actually knows everyone, this period is really about allowing the judges a chance to meet one another and build some camaraderie before settling down to the task at hand.

Judging Finalist Round 2015 LoaA Playhouse Competition

The judges for this round consisted of:

Brad Oldham and Chrity 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

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.

Andrew Hawkins – past President of AIA Brazos Chapter, and the owner of Hawkins Architecture – a very successful firm based in College Station, Texas.

Ella Steed and Kate Borson – Playability Experts representing the “target demographic”

Barry Buford – Contractor & Owner at Buford|Hawthorne Custom Homes and builder of 7 of the 8 playhouses I have designed of Dallas CASA

(if you want to know more about the judges from the first round of judging, read more 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition: Meet the Judges)


Judging Finalist Round 2015 LoaA Playhouse Competition

It should be said that I am not a judge during this process – I play host, explain the rules, and ask “more wine?” a lot. The evening is a lot of fun but the judging process is taken extremely seriously. From start to finish, the judging process takes about 3 hours of deliberation, polite arguing, and a lot of back-and-forth discussions on a wide array of considerations. Most of the discussions focus on two major aspects:

Constructibility – just what it sounds like – the judges talked about how the playhouse would be built and how the design might be impacted once a clever idea was built.

Playability – whether or not children would find a particular playhouse fun to play with/on. While it might seem like a good idea to create a playhouse that is completely flexible, all we had to was ask our “Playability” experts Ella and Kate what they thought …and they delivered a verdict that was always clear and concise and they almost NEVER disagreed with one another. Having children on the judges panel is extraordinarily valuable and I would recommend to anyone considering entering a playhouse into this competition in the future that they ask a child to review their project.

While there are other concerns that make this playhouse design competition much more challenging than you might think, those are the two most important.

Bob Borson sorting playhouse entries

The entire process, despite being quite a bit of fun, is actually a lot of work. Once the judges leave, I still have organize the entries. Basically, the way a playhouse advances in to the finals round, is like this:

After we have talked through the competition requirements and considerations, every judge will go through all the entries independently and will decide whether or not that particular entry in their opinion is worth of advancing. After that, I will ask for a show of hands, as we go through each submission, of the groups individual thoughts and tally up all the votes and then arrange them based on final vote count. At this point, everyone else sits down to eat and discuss whatever they want while I sort and arrange the playhouse based on votes. I typically aim to advance about 30 of the entries; this normally means about 20 entries advance without much additional consideration but in an effort to reach consensus on the final 10 or so that make the cut, people have to build a case to the group as to why they think an entry should advance.

All in all, it’s pretty exciting. But enough jibber-jabber, let’s get to the entries that have been chosen to advance to the finals! In no particular order … I present the 2015 Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition Finalists!!


Caitlin Brady Planes of Playhouse


Planes of Play Designer: Caitlin Brady – Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania USA

Bio: Hi! I’m Caitlin and I’m a fourth year student at Drexel University. I’m currently enrolled in the 2 + 4 Bachelor of Architecture Program and working full-time at an architecture firm. I’m also on the Drexel Football Team– but it’s an improv comedy group!


Chirochi Shimizu Junior Pin House Playhouse


PinHouse Designer: Chirochi Shimizu Junior – Brazil

Bio: I am an architect one of the partners of HSArquitetos, I am responsible for the conceptual design development inside our office.


Mark Iscaro Cosmos3

PinHouse Designer: Mark Iscaro – Bentleigh, Victoria, Australia

Bio: I’m a 37-year-old building designer currently studying Architecture online through Curtin University whilst running my own design firm that specialises in sustainable mid-century inspired architecture. I also happen to host a Tv show on craft beer called Craft Beer Crusaders and enjoy reviewing and sampling beers.


Le Minh Dai Space Capsule Playhouse


Space Capsule Designer: Dai Le Minh – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Bio: I’m 33 years old and studied bachelor and Master architecture at University Architecture of HCM city. Now, I’m working as architect in  HCM city, Vietnam.


Vincent Minkler Playhouse

The Lamp House Designer: Vincent Minkler – Red Bank, New Jersey, USA

Bio: I am recently a father and a licensed architect.  I practice residential architecture because I enjoy working with families.  Very excited to find this competition!


Susann Stein-Fun Guard Beach House

Fun Guard Beach House Designer: Susann Stein – Houston, Texas, USA

Bio: This is my second shot for the playhouse competition. When I first read about it in 2013 I thought: what a great idea! This competition combines so many things I love: design, kids, doing something for a good cause…  I am an architect from Germany, who also worked in Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. Right now I am living with my family in Houston and can’t wait to design more playhouses, for this competition and for our own backyard. This year I may even be able to see the results in person.


Steve Jordan

Beach Hut Designer: Steve Jordan – Rowlett, Texas, USA

Bio: Graphic Designer . Vintage Motorcycle Lover. Father.


Natalia Bazaiou and Athina Siga SPACE TIME CAPSULE

Space Time-Capsule Designer: Natalia Bazaiou and Athina Siga – Athens, Greece and Serres, Greece

Bio: We areAthinaSiga and NataliaBazaiou both architects, friends and former fellow students. This competition challenges us both as architects and as mothers.


Erik de Rooij Roof Terrace Playhouse

The Roof Terrace Playhouse Designer: Erik de Rooij – Kolding, Vejle Amt, Denmark

Bio: I graduated as an architect more than 25 years ago, after a very bumpy ride, education-wise. I’ve been on the verge of ‘going for it’ as a free-lance architect a few times, but am now working in the translation business – which suits me well. Still, I’ll never not be an architect, and I couldn’t resist having a go at this competition. It is my ambition/dream to be able, 2 or 3 years from now, to share my time, 50-50-ish, between architecture and translation work. At the moment I verilysucketh atSketchup and Layout, but I really like working with both programs and hope to improve with time.


Zach George and Taylor Proctor lookout playhouse

Lookout Designer: Zach George and Taylor Proctor – Portland, Oregon, USA

Bio: Zach George and Taylor Proctor are submitting a design on behalf of The Good Design Collective. The Good Design Collective is a multi-disciplined, collaborative design collective based out of the Pacific Northwest. TheGDC is focused on creating good design for all types of applications and has done work in the fields of Architecture, Furniture,  Product Design, & Graphic Design.


Jovin Lim The Promise Playhouse

The Promise Playhouse Designer: Jovin Lim – Champion Lakes, Western Australia, Australia

Bio: I am a26 year old student just about to finish my Bachelor’s in Architecture. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Filmmaking specialising in Cinematography.    I am also an enthusiastic reader of your blog! What I love about your blog is that I can see there is a human being behind your monitor, it gives colour to the otherwise monotone instruction =)    When I was much younger and did not realise how hard it is to actually put food on the table, My brother and I wanted to travel through Europe in a tent, as professional storytellers. If I do not become an Architect, I would be an Author. Hopefully I get to be both one day.    Contrary to a popular stereotype, I do not like Lego. Around Architecture school, I hear most people dissing the themed Lego sets in favor of the creative freedom that come from the big box of various blocks. I prefer the themed sets because I looked forward to roleplaying the character’s lives and experience in the environment instead.    This leads to my design style which tends to be more narrative based. I tend to reinterpret the brief by creating a story for the target users of the project. Shaping the space around creating an experience for the user. I would say my weakness usually comes in composing the exterior form of the building.


andres moreno Ellie the Elephant

“Ellie the Elephant” Playhouse Designer: Andres Moreno – Alexandria, Virginia, USA

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.


Steffe Harwood Camp Constellation

Camp Constellation Designer: Steffe Harwood – Chicago, Illinois, USA

Bio: I am an Architectural Designer for a developer in Chicago, IL. I’ve been practicing Architecture since I graduated from The Illinois Institute of Technology in 2012. I pretty much knew I was going to be an Architect since I was about 6 or 7 years old. Living the dream!


Daniek Reijnders and Joeri Sowka The Nest

The Nest Designer: Daniek Reijnders and Joeri Sowka – Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

Bio: We are Daniek &Joeri; both twenty-something and both architecture students from the Netherlands. We love architecture and each other!


Aliasghar Mofrad Boushehri Magic Boxes

Magic Boxes Playhouse Designer: Aliasghar Mofrad Boushehri – Qazvin, Qazvin, Iran

Bio: I am a 5th year architecture studentattendingIKIU University … and really love design.


Tyler Murph The Reading Room

The Reading Room Designer: Tyler Murph – Dallas, Texas, USA

Bio: Born and raised Dallasite, practicing architecture/design for 16 years, UTA graduate, doing higher education work now but have done corporate, K-12, multifamily, and religious architecture.  Musician in my spare time, and secretly wish I was doing modern residential (…or not so secretly).


T. J. Sebastian Whale Whale Whale Playhouse

Whale Whale Whale Designer: T. J. Sebastian – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Bio: Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’m currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee studying architecture and urban planning.


Riaan Kotze Fire House Playhouse

Fire House Designer: Riaan Kotze – Fitchburg, Massachusetts, USA

Bio: 30-something designer working in Boston. I was conceived, born and raised in South Africa. Immigrated to USA 3 years ago. My wife is and American, but we met in West Africa. I have an 9 month old son, he is the bomb. I wonder what I am in for because he is a lot like me…..aaaaaarrrrrrrghhh!


Denis Tantsyura Backyard Igloo

The Nest Designer: Denis Tantsyura – Ta’Xbiex, Malta

Bio: I’m Russian, 1st year BSC in Built Environment student in the University of Malta, and an active, ambitious and creative person.


Elvis Ibarra Butterfly Pavilion

Butterfly Pavilion Designer: Elvis Ibarra – Irving, Texas, USA

Bio: I am a 25-year-old Architect Intern. I am currently a project manager working at an up and coming residential architecture engineering firm, I love to cycle and enjoy the great outdoors in all it’s glory!


Valeria Pestereva Cloud house

CloudHouse Designer: Valeria Pestereva – Russia

Bio: Not Provided (Valeria – if you will email me some information, I will come back in here and update this post).


Sam Sudy - The Book Nook

The Book Nook Designer: Sam Sudy Portland, Oregon, USA

Bio: I am a recent graduate from the University of Oregon, in Portland. I now work for a small firm downtown called Propel Studio Architecture that works primarily on Accessory Dwelling Units, but also some residential and commercial alterations.



La Cabana Designer: Patrick Beck and Madeline Gonzalez – Miami, Florida, USA

Bio: We’re a team of two architecture students (Patrick Beck and Madeline Gonzalez) at the University of Miami. This playhouse is inspired by the fun, tropical-vernacular houses of Key West and the Bahamas. Patrick enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay and woodworking, while Madeline is interested in graphic design, steampunk and rose cacti.


Dewan Mashrur Slinki Playhouse

Slinki Playhouse Designer: Dewan Mashrur – Dallas, Texas, USA

Bio: I am an architectural designer working towards becoming a licensed architect. I have a passion in design and function, which has been in my bloodline since my dad is an architect. I would like to contribute, while pushing the bounds of architecture to the next generation. After coming across this competition, seeing that it was for a good cause, while being based out of my hometown of Dallas, knew I had to participate.


Kyle Barber Tree Fallin

Tree Fallin’ Playhouse Designer: Kyle Barber – Rochester, New York, USA

Bio: I hate 99% of builder-grade developments. Like most architects, I believe I can change the world with good, smart design, even if it’s not necessarily true. I love playing soccer more than anything. I love designing/customizing things more than anything except soccer. I typically have a lot of unfinished projects lying around the house that were based on an inspiration that came to me at 2am on a Tuesday. I like painting, until I have to paint. I think the 60s was the greatest decade in architecture and period. Modern design is timeless and; therefore, clearly the best.


Sabrina Rocha Rockin House

Rockin’ House Designer: Sabrina Rocha – Naples, Florida, USA

Bio: I’m 26 years old and work at a small architecture firm in Naples, Florida, where I grew up. I have an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, but left design to model in New York, Milan, and Mexico City for five years after I graduated. I plan to attend Politecnico in Milan this fall to get my graduate degree, and then just keep doing architecture stuff for the rest of my life, among holding on to the love of my life, always learning, laughing and crying, and all the other wonders and challenges of life. This is the first design competition and I am very excited to be apart of it!


Marcelo Mortari Rubber Web

Designer: Marcelo Mortari – Santana de Parnaíba, São Paulo, Brazil

Bio: I am a brazilian architect. My work focused on project management, furniture and interior design and design competitions. In my spare time I´m also a musician.


Jonathan Brown Craft House Playhouse

Designer: Jonathan Brown – Rowlett, Texas, USA

Bio: Architect, designer, urban retrofitter, community builder, disc golfer, bibliophile, gamer, geek, Jayhawker, modernist, tiki owner & dry martini drinker.

Whoomp there it is! Congratulations to all the people who have been advanced in to the final round, you have already won in my mind since the competition you have faced to reach this point is considerable. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who participated this year, you have contributed to a growing event  that has seen the quality level of all the entries increase.

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.


Bob-AIA scale figure