Reconciling the needs of small children with those of their parents can pose a significant design challenge. This project presented Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano with an additional wrinkle: a desert environment that is as visually appealing to their clients as it is potentially hazardous to their little ones. Ibarra and Rosano responded with a play space that is safe, fun, and easy on the eyes.

A stuccoed concrete block wall keeps kids in and wild critters out while preserving sight lines from the house. The two-level play space takes in a long strip of turf, a small herb garden, a rubber-matted romping zone, a sandbox, and a “shade cube” fabricated from steel angle and galvanized steel stud tracks. “The cube just came from thinking about platonic shapes,” Ibarra explains. “And kids play with blocks, so why not a block on a concrete wall?”

The simple geometry works equally well for the adults in the family, who can gather on the adjacent patio without feeling that they've been exiled to the rec room. “It's a pretty smart little yard,” one of our judges remarked. “It addresses an outdoor space that was limited and really makes the most of it.”

Project Credits
Entrant/Architect/Landscape designer: Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, Tucson, Ariz.
Builder: Repp Design + Construction, Tucson
Structural engineer: Harris Engineering Services, Tucson
Living space: 1,676 square feet (play yard only)
Site: 3 acres
Construction cost: $24 per square foot
Photographer: Chris Richards