Chinese pagoda playhouse

Like your children, you love them all… but a sneakily favourite commission is when we get to design a playhouse for the much-loved child or grandchild of clients: whoever and whenever, it’s always a job of pure pleasure.  It’s a pleasure not only because we can really let our creative juices flow, but mostly because of the sheer joy of watching as the child’s imagination unfurls and flies…as far afield as Max’s does in Where the Wild Things Are.

So when we relocated to West Sussex a few months ago, we decided that it was time our own daughter was granted a much-voiced wish of having her own playhouse. Suddenly, the prospect of designing one for our Dearest Daughter (DD from here on in) was enthralling and terrifying in equal measure. At nine, she is one tough audience to crack.

And then there is her army of friends who all have an opinion of their own… eek!

The pagoda does the trick…

DD is a child of passions.  We’ve been through the early Postman Pat phase, then came an obsession with the Mr Men but by far the longest and most passionate craze was the age of the Dinosaurs.  And wouldn’t you know it, just when we were in the process of designing a dinosaur playhouse, they too finally bit the dust… and since JK Rowling has already done Hogwarts, where to go for inspiration for something that will endure? Something that will pass muster as a den in years to come…

The answer came in a blinding flash: China. DD was born in China and is rightly proud of her Chinese heritage…so, what else but a pagoda playhouse? DD loved the idea in principal but wanted to know a bit more about them…

Design of pagoda playhouse

DD’s pagoda playhouse



The history of the pagoda

According to, Buddhists in China began to build special Buddhist buildings called pagodas in 200 AD based on the Indian Buddhist stupas. “These buildings were not really for going inside; they were to keep sacred things in, like gold treasures and books of Buddhist prayers and pictures of the Buddha. These early Han Dynasty pagodas were all made of wood.

People went on building these pagodas from then on in all the dynasties, but they made changes in the style of the pagodas. In theTang Dynasty, around 500 AD, architects built fancier pagodas with eight sides, like the White Pagoda at Chengde or the West and East pagodas at Kunming.

During the Song dynasty, about 1000 AD, people liked to see very tall, thin pagodas, with tall spires on top to make them look even taller. These pagodas were also fancier than pagodas from the Tang Dynasty – they had complicated wooden lattices all around them so they looked like they were made of lace and air, holding themselves up by magic.”

DD was particularly sold on the idea of a creating the vision of a curved roof (“awesome”) when she investigated why they were created like that. Our first, clearly pedestrian,  guesses of the roofs being shaped a bit like a coolie hat or to help the rain pour off, were replaced by a much more unusual truth. Apparently the curvy roofs were built that way because of ghosts.  According to, and Chinese tradition, evil spirits can only travel in straight lines, which helps to explain the number of curvy roads in China and indeed the shape of the roofs.

So, the design is done and rubber stamped by our testing, homegrown client and her friends, with construction about to begin.  Keep your fingers crossed that it meets with her approval…we’ll keep you posted… 


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