A UNM architecture and planning class is participating in Parade of Playhouses, where teams from across the state design and build playhouses to be auctioned for charity.

In May, 11 families will be awarded free, unique, custom-made children’s playhouses, courtesy of the Parade of Playhouses raffle sponsored by New Mexico Appleseed, a local nonprofit organization.

New Mexico Appleseed fights issues like homelessness, hunger and child abuse by working on public policy. The group aims to raise $20,000 through the auction, which is scheduled to take place at their charity gala.

This is the second year the group is sponsoring Parade of Playhouses, but it is UNM’s first year participating.

“The benefit to the students is they get to design and build something all in the same course,” said Matt Gines, director of the school of architecture’s fabrication lab. “It makes them better designers. If you draw a bunch of stuff and you don’t really understand how it goes together, it doesn’t make you a good designer. Understanding what you’re drawing makes you a good designer.”

The class has divided into two groups, with each building a themed playhouse.

“Fairy Tale” is loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland and has a slide that mimics Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole.

“Just as Alice grows and shrinks, the children will either feel small or large as they explore the staircase that wraps around the frame or narrows as they go down the slide,” said Rosa Castillo, team manager for the house. “They also get to escape through a trap door to the bottom.”

“Toy Factory” is a modern approach inspired by the sci-fi film Tron — circuit boards and cyber punk, Gines said.

“The specifications dictated that everything sit within a 10-by-10-by-10-foot space,” said team manager Vince Aragon. “Anything that extended beyond that had to be detachable, such as our 12-foot tower.”

Every piece is being custom-made in the fabrication lab, which contains state-of-the-art equipment.

The students have three weeks from Monday to fully construct the playhouses.

“The work they’re doing is great. I love to see students heavily engaged and taking such pride in their work,” Gines said. “They’re working collaboratively and professionally to get it done; I think they’ll all be really pleased with the work they’ve done this semester.”

The playhouses will be auctioned on May 8 at the Parade of Playhouses Gala at the ABQ BioPark and Botanic Garden.

Marielle Dent is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. You can reach her at mdent@unm.edu or on Twitter @Marielle_Dent.