Architecture for Dogs: Designing for a world “built on a canine scale”

Kengo Kuma and Toyo Ito are among the 16 designers and architects to have produced work for an exhibition that explores the “relationship between dogs and their people”.

A new exhibition dedicated to dogs will open at London’s Japan House next month with a showcase set to feature the work of 16 architects and designers like Kengo Kuma and Toyo Ito, who have developed design-led beds, toys and activities for man’s best friend.

It is the brainchild of Japanese graphic designer and Japan House chief creative advisor Hara Kenya, and so far, has been seen in Miami, Brazil and China. The exhibition’s opening at Japan House London in September will mark its first showing in Europe.

Wanmock by Torafu Architects for Jack Russell Terrier. Photo: Hiroshi Yoda.

“The potential for a new type of architecture”

Architecture for Dogs’ mission is to encourage guests to imagine an environment “built on a canine scale,” Hara tells Design Week.

“The approach of human engineering is a vision of environment creation which uses the human body as its yardstick,” he says. “However, look at a little dog next to its owner, and you begin to see the potential for a new type of architecture.”

The exhibition, Hara says, is not connected to the pet industry in a commercial sense, but rather themed around how dogs can be a medium for thinking about design. As such, exhibits focus on the traits of different breeds and “how it is possible for dogs and their human companions to be at their happiest”.

“Dog and architecture become one”

One breed-specific piece on display will be a mirrored structure from German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic. Titled Paramount, the design is targeted at poodles, a breed well-known for liking its own reflection.

Elsewhere, Dutch architectural practice MVRDV has focused on the beagle, a dog recognised for its intelligence. The team challenged the nature of “architecture for dogs”, given that today, many dogs live out their lives within their owners’ homes – thus in “architecture for humans”. Their piece updates the aesthetics of a traditional doghouse, thereby aiming to create a space for the animal as well as an interactive toy.

And taking inspiration from the features of the dog itself, Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima has created a fluffy Bichon Frise hideaway. Intended as a structure in which “dog and architecture become one”, the “candy floss cocoon” aims to provide a safe space for the breed to relax.

Paramount by Konstantin Grcic for Toy Poodle. Photo: Hiroshi Yoda.

“Much broader than just those living in or visiting the capital”

The design of the space itself is “minimal”, according to Japan House director of programming Simon Wright. This is to give priority to the works showcased, and also ensures consistency as the exhibition moves between venues.

While minimal, it will still be interactive – particularly for dogs themselves, who are invited to play with several of the exhibits. With the exhibition opening during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Wright says the safety of staff and visitors has been at the forefront of preparations.

“The exhibition is being designed with social distancing in mind, and some elements which may have originally required visitors to touch are being re-configured,” he says.

To support the physical show, and provide an opportunity to see the works for those unable to visit Japan House, the exhibition will also be accompanied by virtual content and an online 3D tour. This way, Wright says, the audience can be “much broader than just those living in or visiting the capital”.

“A single design could spawn countless ‘replicas’”

Additionally, the exhibition invites visitors to engage in their own architecture for dogs, Wright explains. Blueprints for each of the pieces on display have been made available on the exhibition website and guests are encouraged to download them and “have a go at creating their own”, he says.

This is something Hara says he has wanted from the very start of Architecture for Dogs as an idea. He recalls the initial stages of curating the work on display in the exhibition, saying he felt engaging leading designers would help convince people “that this is a worthwhile project”.

“I felt that, perhaps, if we created a space where the perspectives of architecture enthusiasts could intertwine with the eyes of dog-lovers on a global scale, the project might develop under its own steam, and in this new form of architecture, a single design could spawn countless ‘replicas’ in all corners of the world,” he explains.

The free exhibition Architecture for Dogs opens at Japan House London on 19 September 2020 and runs until 10 January 2021. For more information, head here.

Beagle House Interactive Dog House by MVRDV for Beagle. Photo: Hiroshi Yoda.
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  • Lionel August 4, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Plainly, as a species, we humans are doomed!

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