Pagoda playhouse – the definite article!

compressEarlier this year, we blogged about an agonising commission to design a very unusual playhouse for a particularly exacting client: our own Darling Daughter (DD). This was to be no ordinary playhouse or den. It had to be truly “awesome” and different to any other playhouse in the world; somewhere she could both play mad games and completely chill out. Oh, and it had to be in the shape of Chinese pagoda.

No pressure there then.

The design in some ways was easy. The width and depth of Chinese culture is probably unrivalled across the globe. China is the home of just about the most spectacular buildings and gardens in the world – just take a look at Imperial Garden at the Imperial Palace (we call it the Forbidden City) or the Lingering Garden at Suzhou as two tiny examples. There is also a strong tradition of miniaturisation of buildings in Chinese culture – almost a distillation of the beautiful.

Chinese bridal sedan chair

Chinese bridal sedan chair

As well as looking at Chinese buildings through the ages, we turned to Chinese transport for our inspiration. The two boxes on either side of the design were based on Chinese bridal sedan chairs, traditionally red and gold in colour, with a further influence of the amazing Hanging Monastery of Hengshan Mountain which juts out precariously over Jinlong Canyon.

Hanging monastery

Hanging monastery

Once the design passed DD’s demanding requirements, construction needed to begin. This summer has therefore been taken up with trying to fit in actually building DD’s dream, alongside a very busy day job and normal family life.

As the build progressed, it was very tempting to keep adding to the design as Chinese architecture lends itself to what would normally be a real faux pas. From Fu Dog (or Imperial Guardian Lion) door handles to the ancient Chinese moongate style window, from the studded doors to the stars ornamentation…the more, the merrier.  And the Chinese, who adorn everything, also seem to be in love with the lustre of gold so the decoration got more and more extravagant…and the more that was added, the better it got. In fact, the hardest thing about building the whole thing has been knowing when to walk away and declare it finished!

Red and gold in Chinese culture are particularly auspicious colours. Red, which corresponds with fire, symbolises good fortune, prosperity and joy.  Gold or yellow is considered the most beautiful colour, is an imperial colour and symbolises completeness and wealth.

Lingering Garden, Suzhou

Lingering Garden, Suzhou

The decision to site the pagoda playhouse on a deck came from the notion of it floating on a pontoon, like many Chinese buildings…and it also allowed the children a fantastic board for jumping off, or just a seat outside upon which to read or while away the time.

So it is now very nearly finished (though not sure it will ever be in our heads!), and we can honestly say that it has truly been a labour of love…

…and now a source of pride too.  DD, and her various cohorts of friends, have not only given it a collective and unanimous thumbs up but have run round it, through it and spent countless hours hidden away in it letting their imaginations fly. As they say, job done.

Nearly.

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