Playhouse Presentations
Students in Matt Gines' architecture class present their playhouse designs.
Credit: Ryan Montano

New Mexico Appleseed, a non-profit organization aiding the poor and underserved, sponsors the Parade of Playhouses competition where teams of designers and fabricators from around New Mexico design and build playhouses that will be auctioned off at the organization’s gala, Friday, May 8 at 6 p.m. at the ABQ BioPark, 2601 Central Ave. NW.

Friday, April 10 is the last day to get the early bird discount on tickets to the gala. Click to order tickets/tables.

Matt Gines, fabrication lab director and lecturer in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, has a studio class that is divided into two teams to design two playhouses.

Toy Factory
Vince Aragon is the design team manager of the Toy Factory team. The idea was to develop a modern toy factory that would appeal to futurists - a Tron-inspired structure with a cyber pump and steam stacks – sans steam – that provide support.

Children enter through a either a little 2-foot by 2-foot door or the larger 5-foot door and check out a swivel swing, turn a crank to make other gears move and climb up into the towers.

“The tower features LED lights that are powered by solar panels on top of the structure,” Aragon said. He added that kids – ages five to eight, but certainly able to accommodate children up to age 10 – can peer out through the small slits in the wall.

“The specifications dictated that everything sit within a 10 by 10 by 10 foot space. Anything that extended beyond that had to be detachable, such as our 12 foot tower,” Aragon said.

The Toy Factory will be completely constructed within the school’s Fabrication Lab, Aragon said, adding that the pieces can be cut on a CNC router, a computer controlled cutter.  The house is made from Dibond acrylic with aluminum.

An appealing feature of the Toy Factory is the ability to convert it readily into a studio once the kids have grown. “The seven foot clearance is easy to convert into a loft. It just needs a bigger door,” Aragon said.

Fairy Tale
The Alice in Wonderland inspired playhouse plays with proportions represented by Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. “It is fun to tap into our inner child again and experience the world through their eyes,” said Rosa Castillo.  Her team enjoyed pushing architectural boundaries of a fairy tale with its crazy forms and abstractions.

Children are invited to explore the sense of falling through the rabbit hole through the pink slide, which wraps around the structure. “Just as Alice grows and shrinks, the children will either feel small or large, as they explore the staircase that wraps around the frame or narrows as they go down the slide. They also get to escape through a trap door to the bottom,” she said. The Fairy Tale team used a breathable canvas to both cast shadows and provide shade.

The designs for all the playhouses – those developed by the Gines’ students and others including several local professional designers – were displayed at the School of Architecture and Planning recently. 

Gines said, "My interest in joining New Mexico Appleseed in their playhouse design/build project had two objectives: one is the need for architecture students to learn through a hands-on approach; the other was to get involved with an organization whose goal is to fight homelessness, something architecture should be heavily involved in.

"Both of these goals can be accomplished through design-build, which is an important learning experience of applied research proving students abilities to design are dramatically increased through the experience. They suddenly understand the implications of each connection, detail and line on their drawings. This greater understanding of building leads to better architects and designers who understand construction, fabrication, materials and details in much more profound ways."

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