Modern, Green Playhouse Designed To Inspire Imagination

Frank Harmon Architect PA participates in Playhouse Parade fundraiser, auction. 

Color scheme, elevations

September 20, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) — Award-winning architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, believes “the best toy is one that allows the greatest freedom. Lego is a good example, a child under a table with a tablecloth surrounding her is another, and nothing is better than a muddy stream.” That’s why the custom-built playhouse his firm has designed for the upcoming Playhouse Parade in Raleigh is about creating spaces that will inspire a child’s imagination.

The Playhouse Parade is a collaboration among the City of Raleigh Parks & Recreation Department, Cameron Village Shopping Center, the Triangle Builders Guild, and a variety of designers, architects, businesses, and individuals to raise funds for the Sassafras All Children’s Playground, a new playground in Laurel Hills that will be accessible for children with special needs.

Frank Harmon’s design team is well-known for modern, sustainable and regionally appropriate

Exterior under construction

architecture, and this playhouse – like the Dog House the firm designed in 2005 to raise funds for Triangle Beagle Rescue of North Carolina — is no exception.

In modern architecture, form follows function. But in the playhouse, form follows play — to allow children’s imagination the greatest freedom.

Rather than designing a themed playhouse — a pirate ship or a firehouse, for example — Harmon’s playhouse “lets a child use his or her imagination,” he says, “from tea parties to puppet shows and even making mud-pies.”

The tall, narrow structure features a covered porch/stage, a lower-level playroom with two windows, and a loft level with a balcony or ”Juliet” window. On the first level, behind the ladder that rises to the loft, is the “kitchen,” where a shelf with buckets sits ready for mud-pie making. Sliding shutters at both lower windows open for puppet shows but close to keep out rain — and imaginary forces attacking a fort. The

Interior showing upper level loft.

large main door at the front of the playhouse can be thrown open for stage productions. In its closed position, a smaller door-within-a door allows children to enter and exit, and a “peep hole” window above the small door allows sun light in and serves as a “spy portal.” A planter in front of the porch/stage invites children to grow flowers and vegetables.

“How important is it,” Harmon asks, “for children to learn where a tomato comes from?”

In keeping with the principals of green, or sustainable, design, the structure is composed of locally available materials: painted wood (plywood and 2x4s and 2x2s), metal (galvanized pipe), and translucent corrugated polycarbonate for the roof. The windows provide natural ventilation and lighting, and the deep roof overhang protects the interior from the hot summer sun.

Harmon and his design team consulted with a child psychologist and several children during the design process, and built the playhouse to the scale of a three- to seven-year-old child.

“It’s real, but small,” says Courtney Evans, Harmon’s architectural intern, who spearheaded the project.

Twelve design teams are designing, building, and donating playhouses that will be displayed in Cameron Village on two Saturdays, October 8 and 15, then auctioned off on October 22 during the “Night Under

Window with sliding shutter.

The Stars Playhouse Parade Gala.” Proceeds from the auction will be used to restore the city’s one-of-a-kind playground that gives kids, no matter what their abilities, the chance to play. For more information:

For more information on Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

About Frank Harmon Architect PA

Frank Harmon Architect PA is an award-winning architectural firm that is recognized nationally as a leader in modern, innovative, sustainable and regionally appropriate design. Its competition-winning design for the AIA NC Center for Architecture & Design is currently under construction in downtown Raleigh. The firm’s work has been featured in numerous books, magazines, journals and online magazines on architecture, including, Dwell, Architectural Record, Architect and Residential Architect. The firm ranked 21st in Architecture magazine’s Top 50 firms in the nation this year and Frank Harmon, FAIA, founder and principal, was included in Residential Architect magazine’s first “RA 50: The short list of architects we love.” For more information, go to