Last May, Houzz and the American Institute of Architects announced the winners of PlayHouzz 2016, a playhouse design contest open to the Houzz community. The five most popular designs have now been built and donated to charities and nonprofit organizations benefiting children around the country. Whether kids want to pretend to be pirates on the high seas or create their own adventure out of plush fabric and Velcro-covered noodles, these playhouses will provide endless hours of inspiration and fun.

Edgardo Jörge-Ortiz, AIA, NCARB, LEED
PlayHouzz winner: Edgardo Jörge-Ortiz
Project: Explore Adventure
Charity: Families Forward Philadelphia

Architect Edgardo Jörge-Ortiz’s winning playhouse concept received the most likes from the Houzz community and was approved by the contest’s advisory board of architects and builders.

With the help of the design-build team at Kole Made, Jörge-Ortiz’s concept playhouse was turned into a real play structure that now graces the courtyard of the emergency shelter run by Families Forward Philadelphia.

Kole Made LLC
The shelter houses up to 125 children, so the playhouse has been getting plenty of action, says Families Forward Philadelphia’s director of fund development, Grace Hightower. “It’s the only play structure in the courtyard, so it’s become quite the hit with the children,” Hightower says. “We instituted some safety guidelines, such as allowing no more than seven children in the playhouse at one time.” She adds that the playhouse is limited to children between the ages of 4 and 10.

Kole Made LLC
The team at Kole Made used locally sourced reclaimed wood to build the playhouse. An interior ladder encourages children to climb to a higher level and explore. Openings covered in a smooth wire mesh throughout the playhouse allow for ventilation and natural light. A rubber floor helps avoid slips and falls.

Koko Architecture + Design
PlayHouzz runner-up: Adam Weintraub and Mishi Hosono of Koko Architecture + Design
Project: Hachi
Charity: Safe Horizon

The Hachi playhouse lets kids mold as many designs as their imaginations can create. The playhouse was designed and built by Koko Architecture + Design. It’s made of plush fabric and Velcro noodles, so it can be wrapped, laid or twisted into almost any shape.

After completing his undergraduate thesis on designing playspaces for visually impaired children, architect Adam Weintraub received a postgraduate fellowship from Harvard University to study playgrounds around the world. His team was excited to design this safe alternative to a traditional playhouse.

Weintraub says he doesn’t like how most play structures are closed off to interpretation. “If you build a castle playhouse, most kids are going to pretend that they’re knights in shining armor or princesses,” he says. “Hachi lets kids decide what kind of environment they want to create.”

The lightweight plush fabric and Velcro noodles come in 20-foot segments. Each segment can be attached to others at the ends, so the total length of the structure in theory is limitless.

Koko Architecture + Design donated four segments of Hachi for a total of 80 feet to Safe Horizon, a charity in Brooklyn, New York. Safe Horizon is the nation’s leading victim-assistance organization, providing support to victims of crime and abuse, plus their families and communities.

Aliasghar Mofrad Boushehri
PlayHouzz runner-up: Aliasghar Mofrad Boushehri
Project: Colorful Lights
Charity: Habitat for Humanity — Metro West/Greater Worcester

Aliasghar Mofrad Boushehri, an architecture student in Iran, looked to the skies for inspiration when designing his Colorful Lights playhouse. “Light is a stimulus for life,” Boushehri says. “Sunlight and moonlight influence our mood and health.”

Boushehri’s playhouse design uses the interplay of the sun and the moon and architecture to create an exciting learning environment.

The staff at Habitat for Humanity — Metro West/Greater Worcester built the playhouse and then donated it to Union Hill Elementary School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The playhouse features colored Plexiglas for the windows of various shapes, allowing sunlight to cast whimsical rainbow-hued shapes inside the structure.

Worcester city manager Ed Augustus talks to a group of Union Hill School kindergarteners about his hopes for their bright futures at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playhouse.

Union Hill’s principal, Ishmael Tabales, plans for the playhouse to be not only a space where students can explore and create, but also a venue for one-on-one meetings with students and a place where teachers can read stories to their classes.

Mashrur Dewan
PlayHouzz runner-up: Mashrur Dewan
Project: Love and Peace
Charity: Dallas CASA and Habitat for Humanity — East Bay/Silicon Valley

The Love and Peace playhouse, by architect Mashrur Dewan, is intended to provide children with a new experience of thinking, creating and having fun. Children enter the barrel-shaped playhouse through a bright heart, symbolizing the loving nature of the space. The back of the playhouse has a peace sign that helps keep the structure together.

Two identical versions of the Love and Peace playhouse were built and donated to two different charities: Habitat for Humanity — East Bay/Silicon Valley and the Dallas chapter of CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Bill Manning of the design-build firm Manning Snelling & McIlyar built the structure for Dallas CASA, and the building staff at Habitat for Humanity — East Bay/Silicon Valley built another to be donated or auctioned off in the near future.

The playhouse donated to Dallas CASA was a part of the charity’s annual Parade of Playhouses, an event that raises money to help find safe and permanent homes for abused or neglected children. The Love and Peace playhouse sold 950 raffle tickets at $5 a ticket, for a grand total of $4,750.

Brooke Martin, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate
PlayHouzz runner-up: Brooke Martin
Project: Adventure Time
Charity: Habitat for Humanity — Truckee Meadows

The Adventure Time playhouse, by architect Brooke Martin, is designed to encourage a new adventure around every corner. The ship-like design features chalkboard paint on various levels that allows kids to set their own agendas and perhaps draw a treasure map.

The playhouse was built by volunteers at Habitat for Humanity — Truckee Meadows using a combination of wood, metal, ropes, Plexiglas and paint. The play structure is on display at the Habitat for Humanity — Truckee Meadows headquarters in Sparks, Nevada, and will be auctioned off at the end of February.

When the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t have to end. The back side of the play structure has a flat surface on which a film for a family (or neighborhood) movie night can be projected.

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