Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Soliciting Designs for Nature Playhouses | Homes & Lifestyle

Posted on November 6, 2021
| 12:51 p.m.

Three playhouse plans will be selected, and partners will get a $5,000 stipend

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Soliciting Designs for Nature Playhouses | Homes & Lifestyle
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Backcountry Casitas designs focus on children ages 5-13. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is accepting applications for its 2022 Backcountry Casitas program. The garden is calling for interested parties to help build nature playhouses that encourage the community, especially families, to get outdoors and play in the natural world.

Three designs will be selected and installed within a new section of the garden opening in June. All selected partners will receive a $5,000 stipend to support their build. The program is open to architects, contractors, design-build teams, artists, hobbyists and students.

In its inaugural year, the 2019 Casitas program featured six unique designs built in partnership with local businesses and talent. Each nature playhouse invites garden guests to explore, discover, and experience firsthand the wonder of nature through whimsical, interactive exhibits that were featured from six months to two years.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing our casitas program back with the public opening of this new garden space in June 2022,” said Joe Rothleutner, director of horticulture and facilities. “This is such a fun and creative way to promote local talent while adding a new immersive dimension to the garden.

“I’m looking forward to working with all our new partners and inviting families to connect with nature and native plants through this experience.”

To be considered for Backcountry Casitas, designs must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. Dec. 15. Applicants are advised to attend the pre-design Zoom meeting hosted by the Botanic Garden, 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16. Email [email protected] to RSVP for the call and receive a link.

While all designs are accepted, the garden encourages designs built with natural materials and appropriate for the target audience (ages 5-13, but appropriate for families and guests of all ages). The selection committee will be judging designs based on the following criteria:

Creativity, imagination, and environmentally conscious design
Engaging for the entire family
Good collaboration between individuals and/ or businesses
Creative use of materials
Flexibility in installation and movement of the casitas
The durability of structure for weather and heavy use by children
Relation to The Garden’s mission (fostering the conservation of California’s native plants)

The Botanic Garden is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and offers a members-only hour from 9-10 a.m. For more, visit