Magazine article Sunset

Architects at Play

Magazine article Sunset

Architects at Play

Article excerpt

Design pros take kid stuff seriously when it's in their own backyards

It's one thing for architects to relate to client's; it's quite another to be related to them. When you've got to face your clients at the breakfast table every morning and tuck them into bed at night, you'd better be sure that they'r satisfied with your work.

The design professionals represented on these pages can rest assured. In creating these backyard playhouses for their children or grandchildren, they've responded admirably to the needs and desires of their clients as well as to the limitations imposed by the structures' sites. But most important, they have answered the basic playhouse question--"Are we having fun yet?"--with a resounding "Yeah!"

Mr. Jordan builds a playhouse

Slice a square in half diagonally and you'll get the floor plan for the playhouse that Mel Jordan, Jr., designed and built for his children, Alexander and Lauren. The triangular plan made a lot of sense to Jordan, a designer-builder in Benicia, California. He knew it was the sturdiest shape tha could be built, and it backed neatly into a corner of his slender backyard.

The 12-foot-high structure rises from a triangular sandbox on 6-by-6 posts tied to concrete footings. Two sets of 2-by-10s bolted to the posts make reinforcing rim joists that support the floor and the roof. The floor is more than 7 feet above the sand, leaving ample headroom below and even some shade for hot summer days.

The Island, as Jordan dubbed the playhouse, is built to last. It has 2-by-6 decking for its floor, a plywood and asphalt roof complete with flashing and a skylight, and walls made from alternating 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s screwed to the ri joists. And there's no roughing it here: the 4-foot-tall interior is comfortabl carpeted for sleeping bag camp-outs and is equipped with an electrical outlet, inside and outside lighting, a phone line, and a cable TV line.

Kids can climb up to and descend from the playhouse on a ladder that angles up to the front door, or on a knotted climbing rope that drops through a hatch doo in the floor. By closing the front door and a pair of shuttered side windows, children can get away from annoying adults and escape into a private world that's above it all and scaled just for them.

Prefab townhouse for toddlers

San Francisco architect George Mock had the luxury of being able to work the bugs out of his design before it was ever installed. He pieced together the modular unit in his own backyard, made modifications and adjustments, then brok it down and transported it to the home of his clients (grandsons Anthony and Gregory).

The fanciful playhouse uses salvaged skylights as both the major window and the roof canopy. "The bubble is the inner liner of a 30-inch skylight I found at a garage sale," said Mock. "I found the other one at a garage sale, too. It had a hairline crack in it, but it didn't matter." The small round windows in the sides of the window bay are Pyrex pie plates.

Bright blue 4-by-4 posts support the joists for the roof deck, the pipe railings, and the pipe supports for the canopy frame, as well as providing screwing surfaces for the modular wall sections, made of 1/2-inch plywood. Each module was held in place with a couple of drywall screws during the initial setup; additional screws secured them in the final installation.

Inside, foot-square peel-and-stick tiles cover the plywood floor. …

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