Canine Contemporary: Architecture for Dogs

Kenya Hara doesn’t design ‘things’. His cerebral yet elegant work in object and experience design as the director of Hara Design Institute and the Creative Director at MUJI, seeks to infuse a sense of identity and memory into design. Rather than designing products, Hara designs happenings or “mental events” – the creation of a lasting imprint on the mind of the viewer or audience. One of Hara’s current projects is Architecture for Dogs, a travelling exhibition and online resource dedicated to the proliferation of novel, DIY contemporary architecture for man and woman’s best friend.

Mount Pug is a mesh-shaped “mountain” designed by architect Kengo Kuma. It is an assembly of thin and long 600mm (plywood) pieces as “branches”. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

Cardboard master Shigeru Ban’s “Papier Papilion” for the Papillon. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima’s fluffy and fanciful architecture for the Bichon Frise. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

Hara commissioned leading designers to create thirteen bespoke pieces of architecture for their chosen breed of canine (Chips, our resident greyhound is patiently awaiting her own design – watch this space, we hope to Assemble one over summer!), including MVRDV for the Beagle, Sou Fujimoto for the Boston Terrier, Atelier Bow-Wow for the Dachshund, Torafu Architects (who we’ve previously featured here and here) for the Jack Russell Terrier, Shigeru Ban for the Papillon and Toyo Ito for the Shiba.

Cone of canine silence? The “Pointed T” by Hara Design Institute for the Japanese Terrier. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

The “Interactive House” for the Beagle by MVRDV. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

The very couture “Chihuahua Cloud” by Reiser + Umemoto. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

The results are playful and whimsical yet sleek. And with blueprints for each of the individual designs available for download through the project website, Architecture for Dogs is an invitation to dog lovers everywhere to get out their hammer, saw and nails and build, remix or hack these open source designs.

Stairway to human? Kenya Hara’s “D-tunnel” architecture for the Teacup Poodle. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

Seeing eye to eye. A Teacup Poodle atop the D-tunnel by Kenya Hara. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

In his D-tunnel design for the Tea Cup Poodle, Kenya Hara has created a timber staircase and viewing platform – an installation that seeks to elevate dogs to the height of their owner, a fanciful design with egalitarian underpinnings. Hara notes: “dogs, who spend their lives at the side of humans, must accept human scale. This architecture is an apparatus for the purpose of naturally bringing dogs and humans eye to eye”. Since the domestication of the Grey Wolf several tens of thousands of years ago, humans have ‘done a Darwin’, breeding and selecting dogs’ physical attributes, traits and temperaments according to their own design. “When the dog runs up the stairs, he ends up at just the right height to be face-to-face with a person. I thought up a device/installation that equalizes human scale and dog scale”.

“No dog, no life!” by Sou Fujimoto for the Boston Terrier. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

The pram-like mobile home for the Shiba, designed by Toyo Ito. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

AP favourites TORAFU Architects’ “Wanmock”, a t-shirt hammock for the Jack Russell Terrier. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

As the curator and initiator of the Architecture for Dogs project, Hara acknowledges and pays tribute to the quiet and often under-represented symbiosis between dog and owner. “Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Re-examining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to re-examine both human beings themselves and the natural environment”.

Designed for the animal that cannot sweat… the “Dog Cooler” for the Spitz by Hiroshi Naito. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

Ready for my close up… Konstantin Grcic’s glamourous design for the Toy Poodle. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

Atelier Bow-Wow’s “Architecture for Long Bodied Short Legged Dog”, dedicated to the Dachshund. Photo by Hiroshi Yoda.

So far, Architecture for Dogs has presented exhibitions in the US, including installations and dog-ins at Design Miami and at Long Beach Museum of Art. Later this month, the project travels to Tokyo’s Toto Gallery.

An amiable Dachshund patron takes in the outdoor exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.

A Boston Terrier waits to explore at Long Beach. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.

TORAFU’s “Wanmock” architecture installed as part of the Architecture for Dogs exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art, 21 June – 1 Sept 2013. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.   

A poodle surveys the crowd at the opening of the Architecture for Dogs exhibition at Long Beach Museum. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.

In coming years, Kenya Hara will curate more projects exploring the underlying structural and experiential design of daily life. “Emptiness is the backbone of my aesthetic sensibility,” says Hara. “The concept of emptiness is the implicit foundation of every aspect of Japanese culture, architecture, design, communication…the ancient Japanese did not see nature as wild. They saw its abundance and believed that nature teaches us how to lead rich lives accordingly”. Stay tuned for “Architecture for Swimming” and “Architecture for Sleeping”.

Happy patrons with Atelier Bow-Wow’s architecture. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.

It’s a dog’s life. Patrons at the Long Beach exhibition opening. Photo by Lindsey Ingram.

Want to treat Fido to his or her own piece of homemade contemporary architecture? Download blueprint designs, watch how-to videos and find out more about the Architecture for Dogs project here: To find out more about Kenya Hara, visit the Hara Design Institute website: Photos by Hiroshi Yoda and Lindsey Ingram. 



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