2017 Cubby House Challenge


Kids Under Cover


April 2017




Fundraising Project for KUC


Interior Design

FMSA Architecture was selected as 1 of the 5 designers to be involved in the ‘2017 Cubby House Challenge’ – an annual event raising funds for Kids Under Cover’s homelessness prevention programs.

Our design, the Kooky Cubby, explores big innovation on a small scale combining leading digital production technology and play theory. The result was an organic form that engaged the senses, inspired imaginative play and piqued the interest of children and adults alike.

Displayed at the 2017 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, the Kooky Cubby won the ‘Best Architectural Cubby’ award and sold for $20,000, contributing to the record fundraising effort for Kids Under Cover.

The Cubby House Challenge raises funds for Kids Under Cover’s work and educate the public on the importance of keeping at-risk youth connected to their family, community and education.


Best Architecturally Designed Cubby


About the Design: The Kooky Cubby 

The Kooky Cubby explores the potential relationship between the freedom of design given by 3d printing technology and the creation of a new imaginative play space. A traditional cubby emerges from the assumption that a child’s desires and need for play are analogous with a house. But, what would happen if this assumption is removed in favour of a critical, explorative design process that pushes the boundaries of innovation and imagination into a small space? Influenced by processes and organic forms found in nature, we used advanced fabrication techniques to synthesise and abstract the biomorphic to create a futuristic experience, the Kooky Cubby.

Driven by the desire to create new experiences, the flexibility of the outdoor-indoor space facilitates creative, explorative and non-structured free play. Textured and translucent PLA polymer walls along with the multi-coloured marine grade contoured plywood floor become the backdrop for imaginative interaction; further enhanced by secret tunnels, hidden nooks and caves creating opportunities for kids to create their own intuitive play experience.

The collaborative and prototypical process led by FMSA Architecture in association with RMIT d_Lab, Upstream Studio, Aurecon and the team of suppliers has lent itself to an iterative design methodology. From using initial concepts modelled with animation software and virtual reality googles to seek feedback from a group of primary school students; to managing the relationship between the 3d printer and our virtual models using parametric modelling; the process itself continually informed the design right up to the moment of printing.

Throughout the build process there has been constant testing and experimentation, along with failures of the technology and materials as the boundaries were pushed. The freedoms and limitations of this advanced fabrication technique were challenging, but allowed the team to strive for innovation and create an integrated solution. As a truly one of a kind form, the final form was driven by the need for creative solutions to design constraints. Addressing the issues directed the end solution and set the project parameters including the logistics of the assembly, the selection and availability of plastic to use for printing; printing constraints like speed, bead size, temperature and times; panel sizes for weight and ease of transport, the connection details between the panels and other materials, and integrating structure into the panel design for rigidity.

The materials of the Kooky Cubby were selected to heighten the tactile quality of the panel forms to create a sensory experience with the addition of light and colour, whilst addressing the technical considerations of UV stability, biodegradability and weather resistance.

A cubby like no other, the Kooky Cubby is a small space that represents and promotes the possibilities of collaborative innovation. The explorative journey undertaken to design and build the Kooky Cubby is as important as the imaginative nature of play that the cubby will inspire.


Our Team & the Process

FMSA Architecture teamed up with the Architectural Robotics Lab within the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University, and creative partners Upstream Studio and Aurecon to design and fabricate a small innovative and unique piece of architecture, the Kooky Cubby.

The challenge gave our team an opportunity to not only give back to the community, but also push our design knowledge and strive for innovation by engaging with new technology.

By engaging with leaders in industry and academics, the Kooky Cubby showcases the possibilities for the advanced digital technology to design and print the components for the built environment.

Our goal was to explore and redefine how play spaces are built and experienced with the bonus of introducing and inspiring today’s youth to the opportunities and possibilities in design thinking to create innovative design and technology.

The Process

Following the announcement of our participation in the 2017 Cubby House Challenge in October 2016, our team were hard at work designing our one of a kind cubby house. We set ourselves the challenge of using advanced design and technology to design and build the cubby. As a result the process taken to transform the idea into a real life organic play space was a complex challenge for everyone involved. Milestones along the way included:

  • An early highlight in the design process was the kids design workshop we held at Footscray West Primary School. Students from the grade one and two junior council got to experience the Kooky Cubby using virtual reality goggles. The feedback from the kids was great and the design team took their ideas on board as they continued to refine our concept and design. We also took the virtual reality goggles for a spin in the studio which gave the team a unique experience walking through the early form.
  • In December we started prototyping the design using the advanced digital 3D printer at the RMIT d_Lab. Early testing focused on speed and temperature test prints with the plastic from Plasgroup that we intend to use to produce our cubby house. A series of prototypes were produced after much trial, error and tweaking to deliver a solution.
  • Throughout December and January, the design team including Upstream Studio, Aurecon, and RMIT d_Lab  held workshops to finalise the technical details of the design and printing process.
  • The cubby house designs were officially revealed by Kids Under Cover on January 20th 2017 – check out the wide range of ideas the 5 teams came up with here
  • Printing of the 8 panels was completed thanks to our project partner RMIT Architectural Robotics Lab in February.
  • Following the completion of the printing process, the assembly process began at our cubby construction homebase at Bowens North Melbourne.
  • 1 week before the start of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, the Kooky Cubby made the journey up the hill to its new home in the Cubby House Village. There the team continued to put the finishing touches on the cubby ready for the auction and display.
  • The team officially finished working on the Kooky Cubby on the Sunday 27th March. The next day the official proceedings began starting with the judging by the Challenge judges.

Throughout the project we shared regular updates on our new section , social media channels and Facebook album– visit to relive the journey.


Project Team

Principal Partners

FMSA Architecture

RMIT Architectural Robotics Lab http://architecturalrobotics.org/

Creative Partners

Upstream Studio   http://www.upstreamstudio.com.au/

Aurecon   http://www.aurecongroup.com

Projects Partners

Bowens North Melbourne    http://bowens.com.au/

Footscray West Primary School http://fwps.vic.edu.au/


Project Suppliers & Advisers

Plasgroup – Supply & technical advice http://plasgroup.com.au/

Julie Mirabile: Colour Specialist  – colour & technical paint advice Julie Mirabile profile


In Kind Sponsors 

Thank you to our in kind sponsors for their generosity in supporting the making of the Kooky Cubby.

Cubby flooring:  Bolon Flooring http://www.bolon.com/

Lighting supplier:  Q industries http://www.qindustries.com.au/

Lighting installation: Stowe Australia http://www.stoweaustralia.com.au/

Supply of perspex for coloured acrylic roof: QAQ Decorative Screens http://www.qaq.com.au/

Synthetic turf: Leisurescape Pro-Turf http://leisurescapeproturf.com.au/

Steel structure fabrication: Walsh Industries  contact

Vinyl wall material: Armstrong Australia http://www.armstrong-aust.com.au/

External cladding panel: Colorbond steel http://colorbond.com/

Supply of paint: Dulux Australia https://www.dulux.com.au/

Painting of roof panels: Brushed in Painting Services

Pushing the boundaries of big innovation on a small scale, the Kooky Cubby creates the opportunity for the community to experience the cutting edge technology first hand.

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