Request for Proposals: Garden Playhouses Outdoor Display

Request for Proposals
Garden Playhouses
Outdoor Display
June 1 – October 1, 2024


Proposals Due August 27, 2023!




Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University seeks proposals from creative individuals, groups or firms to design, construct, and display unique site-specific garden playhouses for its 2024 temporary outdoor display of Garden Playhouses. Collaboration is acceptable and encouraged. 

Reiman Gardens

One of the largest public gardens in Iowa and creating a striking entrance to Iowa State university and the city of Ames, Reiman Gardens’ mission is “to educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, insects, and the beauty of the natural world.” Situated on a 17-acre site, the year-round facility features 26 unique garden areas with seasonal displays designed around a grand theme that changes each year.

Inside there are two large glass houses; the breathtaking Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, holding one of the most diverse collections of live, exotic butterflies in the country; and the indoor, tropical Hughes Conservatory open year-round. Reiman Gardens is home to Elwood, the world’s largest concrete gnome, and is one of the most unique gardens in the country available to student, faculty and staff exploration, research, and on-site learning. Key offerings also include seasonal public events, hundreds of educational programs for various audiences, and beautiful rental spaces for private events.

Exhibition Description

From Saturday, June 1, 2024 – Tuesday, October 1, 2024, Reiman Gardens will debut a new outdoor exhibition of garden playhouses inspired by nature. This show will feature 8 functional playhouses, designed to be site-specific and inspired by our 2024 interpretive theme, The Living Landscape.

Designers/groups will be selected through a competitive process to exhibit one of 8 garden playhouses in one of eleven predetermined locations (see map on p.7) within Reiman Gardens’ 17 acres. These structures, together with interpretive materials, will form an interactive outdoor display to enchant all visitors to the Gardens and encourage them to explore and engage.

We hope each designer or group will offer an inspiring design that gracefully integrates into the landscape in one of the predetermined locations. Though not required, we encourage designers to consider the use of sustainable products to fabricate their structures to ensure that the project has minimal impact on the environment, which may result in additional interpretive and educational opportunities related to resource conservation.

Key Exhibition Messages

To create a unique display of interactive site-specific garden playhouses that explore the themes of nature and The Living Landscape.


• To inspire people with the adventure and imagination behind playhouses as a special place to celebrate plants, insects, and nature
• To increase awareness and understanding of public art, architecture and design
• To promote Reiman Gardens and its mission
• To educate the public about art, design, and its integration with nature
• To provide a showcase for local, regional, and national designers, groups, or firms

Stipend, Awards, Sales, Recognition

Selected designers/groups will be paid a fee of $4,000 for the design, production, and installation of their work and for exhibiting the piece for the duration of the show. Half (50%) of the payment will be sent upon signing the Exhibitor Agreement, receipt of an invoice from the Artist, and acceptance of the design of the playhouse, the remainder (50%) after installation is satisfactorily completed and invoiced from the Artist. All structures may be for sale but must remain in the exhibit through October 1, 2024. The Gardens will make every reasonable attempt to sell the available playhouses, taking a 25% commission on structures sold during or as a result of the show.

We will hold voting for a People’s Choice Award, which will be announced just before the end of the exhibition. The name of each designer/group will be listed in printed exhibit-related materials, on exhibition panels, in press releases, and on social media (No logos.) All designers/groups will be provided with five free passes to the Gardens during the exhibition.

Selection Process & Criteria

The Garden Playhouses outdoor exhibition is coordinated by Reiman Gardens. To ensure the highest quality exhibition, designs will be chosen by a panel of jurors which includes representatives from Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University, and other designers and representatives from local organizations. Chosen designers/groups will then work closely with Gardens’ staff during the construction/installation and removal processes.

Please consider the following criteria for the design:
• Creativity, imagination, environmentally friendly
• Site-specific integration
• Choice of weather-resistant materials which will last the life of the event
• Creative use of materials
• Connection to themes of nature and The Living Landscape
• Engaging for the entire family
• Range of accessibility for all visitors
• Durability of structure for weather and heavy use by children and adults
• Sensitivity to public safety of all guests

Qualified designers/groups must have:
• Proven experience designing/constructing functional structures
• Interest in working as part of a creative team that will include Gardens’ staff

Each submitted design requires the following:

  • Identifying information (firm/individual names, logos, etc.) kept out of all designs and supporting descriptive materials. This information should only be provided on the Application Form, so as to not be visible to the jury panel during design selection.
  • Design in the form of digital rendering, schematic, architectural drawing, or other images with plan view showing scale. 3D models are welcome but not required.
  • Include the estimated budget for the playhouse and a general statement of materials to be used.
  • Identify which location number you are designing for and whether the design is flexible for other locations. See map on p.7.
  • Attendance at one informational meeting. Accommodation may be made with prior communication.
    o August 1, 2023 @ 11:00 a.m. – in-person @ Reiman Gardens
    o August 2, 2023 @ 4:00 p.m. – in-person @ Reiman Gardens
    o August 17, 2023 @ 11:30 a.m. – virtual via WebEx
  • Meeting link:
    Meeting number: 2622 473 9508
    Meeting password: s4F3uEeq2Yy

Reiman Gardens reserves the right to use any and all images, renderings, and models for the promotion of the exhibition in print or electronic formats.

Guidelines & Responsibilities

The health and integrity of the plant materials in our collection are vital to our mission and institution. It is necessary to protect and maintain our collections by adhering to the following guidelines for construction and installation of all outdoor structures. 

Upon notification of selection, Exhibitors will be required to sign an Exhibitor Agreement. The Gardens’ staff will work with the Exhibitors on scheduling construction/installation with final approval being made by Gardens’ staff. Up to three entries per designer/group are accepted. An Application Form must be completed for each design. After installation, public voting will begin for the People’s Choice Award.


Exhibition Schedule


Request for Proposals posted July 5, 2023
On-Site Pre-Design Walkthrough (required option 1) August 1 or 2, 2023
Virtual Pre-Design Meeting (required option 2)  August 17, 2023
Proposals Due (please use attached application)  August 27, 2023
Proposal Acceptance Notification  September 15, 2023
Signed Exhibitor Agreements & 1st Invoice due  September 30, 2023
Installation of Playhouses & 2nd Invoice due  May 20-30, 2024
Members-Only Opening Reception  May 30, 2024
Exhibit Opens to the Public  June 1, 2024
Exhibit Closes  October 1, 2024
Removal of Playhouses October 2-11, 2024



Contact and Application Information

To Apply: Please complete the attached form. 

Please direct all inquiries to: 
Sarah Rummery, Director of Horticulture 
Reiman Gardens
Iowa State University
1407 University Blvd
Ames, Iowa 50111