Project Playhouse designers hope to make a lot from a little

Desiree Bartoe

“The Lil’ Emerald City:” six shiny green towers are cast into the sky, large windows paint beautiful pictures and bright neon lights spiral to the ceiling.

“The Playful Paradise:” wooden ramps supported by stilts bend through the trees like a natural fortress, ladders swing down to white, glistening sand and nets swing like bridges across the sky.

“The Spotlight Theatre:” a large wooden stage jets into the audience, a brilliant purple and blue tent hovers in the sky, and children become rock stars.

Is this a child’s dream come true? Considering these playhouses stand only 10 inches tall, not yet.

But someday it could be.

Junior interior design majors from Assistant Professor Chere Doiron’s Studio Problems for Interior Design IV class created 29 miniature playhouse designs to help raise money for the alternative winter and spring break trips to Biloxi, Miss.

“Students were engaged by this project,” said Ann Gosky, associate director for the Center of Student Involvement and “Kent State United for Biloxi” committee member. “It became a passion for some of them, and it shows in the final presentation.”

The committee will select six designs to be constructed and sold in Northeast Ohio.

“(This project) really brought reality to what we have been doing for the last three years,” said Kate Mileti, junior interior design major. “Our designs might actually be built and used.”

Sponsors from the community will provide building materials, and architecture majors, student organizations and individual students will help construct the life-size playhouses.

“This project is important to me because I am from southern Louisiana and have a vested interest in helping rebuild areas destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Doiron, who is also a member of the committee. “It gives students who are not able to go to Biloxi a chance to help.”

The project guidelines specified the structure had to be portable, profitable and constructible.

“I wanted to design a playhouse that I would have enjoyed when I was young,” said Katie Dryden, junior interior design major. “I liked to sing and dance so I constructed a stage for the kids. Who doesn’t want to be a rock star?”

The committee is also planning to select playhouses and then build them in Biloxi during the Jan. 4-11 and March 24-31 trips.

“Many of the playhouses are geared toward a certain community in Biloxi,” Doiron said. “Some designs are focused on the Asian or African American cultures.”

Kristina Bishop’s “The Playful Paradise” is based on a mixture of Vietnamese architecture and nature.

“I wanted my design to reflect the culture in Biloxi,” said Bishop, junior interior design major. “I was inspired by the Vietnamese tradition, and its reflection in Biloxi’s community.”

Although plans to construct playhouses in Biloxi are not concrete, the committee plans to address the issue at its next meeting.

“It would be great if they built these playhouses in Biloxi,” Dryden said. “The kids have been through so much that they don’t really have the opportunity to enjoy nice things. This would give them a chance to be a kid again.”

Contact social services reporter Desiree Bartoe at [email protected].