The Grasshopper Playhouse – Construction Drawings

The people who like my website are undoubtedly going to be very happy today. There’s nothing like looking at someone else’s construction drawings to put a person in a good mood.

Grasshopper Playhouse exploded view

That’s right – it’s time for the tenth “Bob is going to publish the construction drawings on his playhouse for free” post. This year, the theme for my playhouse is ‘The Grasshopper Playhouse’ – with the inspiration for my playhouse being based on the grasshopper houses that are popular in several parts of China where some people like to keep their pet grasshoppers … more times than not people have pet crickets, but I like the name ‘Grasshopper’ better and I’m the boss.

So here you go – as promised and for free …

The Grasshopper House - 1 Floor Plan by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

I am trying something a bit different this year. I didn’t actually prepare these drawings myself (gasp!!) The playhouse competition schedule is condensed this year and with all the traveling I’ve been doing for work, I turned to one of my employees to prepare them for me – Landon Williams. I had already worked out how this playhouse would come together as I designed it in SketchUp. Since I have to present my design before all the playhouse design competition entries come in, I have turned to working everything out in SketchUp because it saves me the step of working through all the nuances of my design and preparing graphics for my post. When I was done, I just exported the model out and emailed it to Landon to start inputting the information into Revit.

The Grasshopper House - 2 Roof Plan by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

While the process was much easier for me, I didn’t really make it that easy on Landon. I still have my typical issues with drafting graphics and he and I went around a few times to get things the way I like. I was working up in Wisconsin and Landon emailed me a pdf of the completed drawings for review with the following text:

“Prepare to be amazed” 

So what’s your guess? Was I “amazed”?

The Grasshopper House - 3 Side Elevation Framing by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

Actually, I kinda was amazed. The drawings were pretty accurate, he had managed to capture the obsessive attention to alignment that I had designed into the playhouse, and the sheets were well organized. What they were lacking was POP.

We had to review and adjust the line weights and hatching, and there were a few enlarged details that I wanted to include – you’ll see them at the bottom of this post – we have some tricky hinges that needed some additional explanation to effectively convey the design intent. I’ll be surprised if they eventually get built exactly how we drew them – I fully anticipate a meeting with the fabricator who will tell me a better way to get to where I want to be.

The Grasshopper House - 4 Front Elevation by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

I generally include the same sort of drawings in every set of playhouse construction drawings – floor and roof plan, three elevations, two sections, and that’s about it. Since this year’s playhouse is made up of a lot of little pieces, I had to include a few extra drawings – which is more than okay. Most of these extra drawings were created as part of the design process so that we could solve the challenge that we had set for ourselves … particularly the hinges and how these doors swing open and nest back against the sides.

The Grasshopper House - 5 Rear Elevation by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

I am very interested in seeing how this playhouse comes together. There are times that I become overly concerned with the exactness that some of these designs require. I’ve been fortunate over the years because I have had the same contractor build every single one of my playhouses – Barry Buford at BufordHawthorne Homebuilders. I know from experience that they pay as much attention to the execution as I would if I were capable of building this playhouse myself.

The Grasshopper House - 6 Side Elevation by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

I emailed these drawings over to Barry two days ago and haven’t heard a peep … I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

The Grasshopper House - 7 Axonometric Wood Slats

I actually thought it would be a good idea to include an axonometric drawing isolating the wood slats that will wrap around this playhouse. The construction drawings at first pass were incredibly busy visually and I wasn’t sure that a pure 2d set of drawings would convey exactly what I am trying to accomplish. This might be the first axon I have included in a set of construction drawings in 10 years.


The Grasshopper House - 1 Section Elevation

It is in the section drawings that profile lines and material hatches really earn their pay.

The Grasshopper House - 2 Section Elevation

When looking at an elevation that includes all the vertical wood slats, it would be incredibly difficult to discern what was air and what was wood without the hatching.  We also decided that it would be helpful to shade the steel framing a solid tone so that it would be easier to find.

The Grasshopper House - 6 Front Elevation Steel Frame Gates

In the end, I knew that we would have to include an isolated drawing the the steel frame at the doors. Even now, I am thinking that I need to do another axonometric drawing of the hinge – it’s hard to know what we are actually doing.

The Grasshopper House - 3,4 and 5 Details by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

These detail drawings are an interesting assortment of allowing the contractor some flexibility to solve a problem, and something particularly exacting that requires rigid dimensional control. Cane bolt? I think they can figure out our intent from this one drawing (Detail #4). The hinge, however, required something more. Those through bolt locations are important becaue they have to align with the framing to which they connect, but they also have to exist in a space that does not interfer with the steel frame when the door is closed.

The Grasshopper House - 8 and 9 Details by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

Another hinge detail (Detail #8) – this time to locate the pivot point in space so that the door can lay flat against the side walls when full rotated 270°. The information shown in Detail #9 has shown up already in elevations and sections, but we needed to include it at a larger scale to demonstrate how we want the slats to be arranged and spaced as they typically move around the perimeter of the playhouse.

I’ve said it in just about every post on my playhouses that I’ve ever written – for being small intrinsic buildings, they are incredibly complicated. At least mine are – maybe that’s a design shortcoming on my part. I try and keep these playhouse cost effective from a material cost standpoint (I think I blew it this year on that steel frame) choosing to instead focus on the exactness of the execution during the construction process. I don’t think this one is as hard as I’ve made it sound, but maybe I’m just trying to convince myself.

The Grasshopper House - The Construction Documents by Dallas Architect Bob Borson FAIA

The last image I have here is the actual construction drawings – both sheets at ful size. I don’t normally arrange them on a sheet when I make them available, the idea is that if you want them, you can simply print out the pictures above using a printer that is probably in your home. While you can still do that, this year I thought I would try and make things just that much easier for anybody who decides that they want to tackle this project themselves. Just remember to send me some photos if you do!


Bob signature FAIA

PS – if you are intersted in the construction drawings of any other of my playhouses, I wrote a post that has them all collected into one place … ‘Playhouse Designs and Drawings‘ Have fun!


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