"Architecture for Dogs: this is only the start," world-renowned Japanese designer Kenya Hara, said as part of his introduction to the furriest, friendliest exhibit this side of Art Basel. And from what this reporter's seen, he's not kidding. For this project, artists all over the world have taken doggie design to the next level, mixing designer furniture with humanity's never ending appreciation for canine camaraderie.
The Design District lucked out, as Architecture for Dogs put on its first-ever showing with Design Miami/ after the launch of its companion website on November 15. The Buena Vista Building looked breezy and chic as 13 breed-specific pieces by Hara's designers prominently displayed the future of doggy style. Furniture, that is.
After three months of serious preparation, the project was ready for its Basel debut. We saw puppy houses reminiscent of the Jetsons, bright orange shelter suits designed so dogs can step out of the house without ever actually leaving it, and intricate wooden structures designed for lounge and play. Remarkably, each installation holds its own.
"I wanted to explain to the architects [that this project] was not just about dog houses; it was architecture for dogs, which could mean anything," Hara said.
Imprint Venture Lab, the company partnered with Hara's, is from L.A. and the designers for Architecture for Dogs are Tokyo-based. They've made a global effort to unite the people and puppies of the world, and at the same time demonstrate that the home can be a convergence of comfort, style, and companionship.
"We wanted as many people to have access to this as possible, and rather than have a limited number of products that would only be for sale to a certain group, we thought that by doing it online, everyone...could do their version and create a world online that was about community rather than sales," Hara said of the blue-prints and instructional videos anyone can access from the website.
When the pups who'd be modeling the designs made their entrance, guests did nothing to hide their excitement. Smartphones shamelessly snapped photos of them. Cub, a wire-haired dachshund; Barker, a beagle; and Riley, a bichon frisé, strutted up and down the designs.
Right now, most of the designs are for smaller breeds. But not for long. "We encourage people to do adaptations of the designs online so they can build bigger things, and then submit their images to us ... Based on what we think is really usable, and on the research we've done on the dogs, we'll make new designs that will be for bigger dogs," project manager Anne Ishii said.
At first, Barker had a case of stage fright but eventually warmed up to the flashing lights with dog treat incentives and the realization that he was being rewarded to play. Ah, the good life.
Cub, a cute little thing who looked more like an old man than a dog, waved a paw at the throng of visitors. Riley, a medium sized mass of white fuzz, happily posed for pictures. Each dog came with a unique personality, making for a heart-melting, this-is-so-cute-my-brain-is-exploding experience.
Designer, Sou Fujimoto, whose prototype took about two months to design, explained that anyone could take one of the projects upon him/herself and have it built in a few days. His piece, made from timber, would only take about one or two. "I was thinking about the architecture for dogs of tomorrow...[a] field for communication between the owners and the dogs, so not just sheltering dogs but to make different new types of communications...We made shelves for the owner to use in their daily lives so through their daily behaviors they can have a natural communication to each other...Every owner could customize [the piece with] items to create a good character of the dogs," He said.
Architecture for Dogs is planning to exhibit in Milan next Spring, plus a product launch in New York and Tokyo by the end of next year.
The project is aesthetically pleasing while keeping the pet in mind, which goes to show that a living space can look and feel how you want it to without having to compromise for mess and a generic kennel. Doggies everywhere can finally express the big personalities behind the bulging eyes and tongues dangling amidst open tooth smiles.
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Architecture for Dogs is open to the public until Sunday, December 9 at the Buena Vista Building, 180 NE 39th St. The "Open House for Dogs" takes place Thursday, December 6, through Saturday, December 8, from 3 to 5 p.m. Bring your pups to test out the pieces and take another one of the million photos of them you already have.