If You Gotta Be in the Doghouse: Architecture for Dogs at the Long Beach Museum of Art

architecture for dogs

All photos courtesy of Architecture for Dogs

The next time someone yells, “Get off the sofa!” it may be the dog. Architecture for Dogs, a celebration of the relationship between people and their pups, will have its inaugural installation at The Long Beach Museum of Art  from June 21 through Sept. 22.

The exhibit features constructions that are designed specifically to give dogs their own living space within that of their human companions (yes, mixed breeds and cats can live in them as well, but more about that a few paragraphs from now). The dwellings run a gamut of housing, furniture, vehicles and wearable art, and each has been created for a specific breed by a designer or an architect.

“It requires an idea of looking at the furniture from your dog’s perspective,” said John Hall, imprint director of Imprint Venture Lab, a Long Beach-based consulting firm that is the exhibition’s collaborative partner. “And that’s the idea of addressing how we look at our furniture in an animal’s way.”

by mark tisdell of u.s. for kenya haras teacup poodle

Mark Tisdell of the United States re-created Kenya Hara’s Teacup Poodle Dwelling

Interactive is an inadequate label for the installation. Better descriptors are proactive, creative and developmental. Blueprints are available on the Architecture for Dogs website; they’re free to the general public to download and build or have someone else make (and you cannot and must not miss the set of instructional videos that accompany the blueprints!). Unlike most museum pieces, they’re not unaffordable or out of reach for someone who has geometrical perspective or knows someone who does.

Anyone who has a creative bone—well gnawed or not—in his or her body can also add imaginative touches to the structure and post photos of the finished art on the website or Facebook page. Earlier this year, the Architecture for Dogs Building Challenge  awarded a five-night trip to Japan for the most creative original design. It was won by two Long Beachers who go by the name of Channing and Haley.

channing and haley winner in long beach

Channing and Haley’s winning structure and equally winning dog

“The role of museums has changed,” said Ronald Nelson, the museum’s executive director. “Artistically, this makes a very strong statement for community involvement instead of just a repository for precious art. And a lot of people feel that there’s a cultural dynamic for this.”

hiroshi-naito spitz

This “chaise longue” seems to invite the viewer to lie down and massage his or her back, but it’s actually a canine cooling system. “My beloved dog, Pepe, who the year before last passed away at the ripe age of 16 and who spent with me the busiest years of my life, was a dear friend,” writes the couch’s creator, Hiroshi Naito. “…With that fluffy fur, summer was really tough. Summer in Japan, hot and humid as it is, is the worst climate—for people and dogs. My house was without air conditioning—a rarity today, and for him, it had to be a really tough environment. Even when we did have access to a fan or a cooler, his tongue would loll out of his mouth and he would pant, as if in great discomfort. His favorite summer spot was the ofuro-ba, or bathing area, where he would lower his body temperature by lying on the tile floor…. This piece is my tribute to Pepe. If there had been something like this to cool him off, he might have lived more comfortably. By inserting a plastic bag filled with ice into the highly thermally conductive aluminum pipe, you can expect quite the cooling effect.”

The exhibit was curated by Kenya Hara, a Tokyo-based designer and creative director of MUJI, a Japanese-based no-brand quality good lifestyle store with global presence (“Think IKEA meets Gap—literally everything you need, from clothing to prefab homes,” Hall said.). Hara was having coffee with Imprint’s founder, Julia Huang, at an airport and told her that he had a great idea that no one liked.

“Kenya is a very visionary person, and Julia likes to help people execute the visions,” Hall said. “She’s also a dog lover.” Hara subsequently came up with a design brief for the dwellings that should be for dogs, not humans, and also should be easy to create and build for the world-renowned architects and designers he selected as well as be available for reproduction by the public.

Hara is the representative director of Tokyo-based design firm Nippon Design Center (NDC), which employs a dedicated staff; with the collaboration of NDC and Imprint, the exhibit made its debut at Basel Art, a three-day winter festival in Miami—and the biggest in the state—for galleries worldwide to promote visual art. Nelson attended the festival and agreed with Huong and Hara that the structures should be assembled as an official installation. Where better, of course, than in a Fido-friendly town with a forward thinking gallery-oriented museum located in a gorgeous location with lots of grassy space?

“It was too valuable a venture not to be shown in the museum,” Nelson said. “There was a period of time when this was all going back to Japan, and I yelled at John, ‘Stop the trucks! I bumped another exhibit for this one.”

“I want to thank Ron for finding a home in Long Beach for this exhibit,” Hall said.

Although each structure is small-dog-breed specific, Nelson and Hall agreed that larger dogs and mixed breeds can be accommodated, especially since our shelters are full of abandoned, unwanted mutts who would love to relax in one of these dwellings (yes, that’s my soapbox). What Hall said about the exhibit’s concept involving looking at our furniture from a pet’s perspective also extends to seeing what breeds and needs make up your mutt and go from there. As for larger dogs, Nelson said that most of the constructions are scaled to have a small dog share your living space with his or hers, but depending on the model, they can be scaled for the the size of your personal space has and how you can share it with your four-legged family member.

 “If you have room for a big dog in your home, surely he or she deserves furniture,” Nelson said. “If I were a big dog, I’d find myself in the Bichon Frise because of comfort and safety.” Hall said that he’d prefer the Beagle. “I like rocking motion,” he said.

kazuyo-sejima bichon frise

The fur of the bichon frise is distinct. Extremely white, soft and fluffy, it’s like cotton candy, or a wisp of cloud. This architecture resembles the bichon frise–with its fascinating fur but one size larger…a space in which a bichon frise could be comfortably settled. Our goal was to create a shape that would be completed by the reclining bichon frise. Dog and architecture would become one.

~ Kazuyo Sejima, architect and creator of Bichon Frise

 mvrdv beagle house

…Dogs live in people’s architecture, and according to the owners’ choices. Challenged to design architecture for dogs, we decided to give the animal a space of its own. The assignment was taken literally and approached in a very traditional manner by updating the classical doghouse design. Even Snoopy, the world’s most famous beagle, lived in a house quite similar. Starting with the archetypical shape, the simple and symbolic form of the doghouse, which also refers to the prototypical human shelter, needs very little transformation to start giving a message. Through this modest metamorphosis, the house has becomes an elegant and playful object, creating both a hideaway and interactive toy.

~Ellen Deceuninck and Mick van Gemert, architects a MVRDV, Rotterdam, Netherlands

No mention was made of cats (except by me), but anyone who shares space with one knows that cats will appropriate absolutely anything and make themselves comfortable in it.

sou-fujimoto boston terrier

Architect Sou Fujimoto built this as a space for Boston terriers and their accoutrements along to share with their human’s cell phones, plants and assorted tchotchkes, but a cat would enjoy sitting in any one of these spaces and knocking off anything occupying it, including the Boston terrier.

The exhibit isn’t just about dogs—it’s for dogs and their human companions. Pussy & Pooch http://www.pussyandpooch.com/, the Long Beach/Los Angeles-based überboutique for pets, in doglike fashion will curl up in and take over the museum gift shop to display and sell their design-forward products for pets and their people. P&P will also sponsor its famous Yappy Hour socials for pets and their people every Thursday night—no reservations necessary.

“Pussy & Pooch was the perfect pet partner for us to build exciting programs with for the Architecture of Dogs exhibit,” Nelson stated in a press release. “Their stylish stores and the pet products they carry are very contemporary and well-designed. Having a Pussy & Pooch pet pop-up store at the museum along with their support during our summer Yappy Hours will make for a great interactive addition for those taking in this exciting exhibit with their pets during its only U.S. appearance this summer.”

Besides the P&P perks, there will be an outdoor canine play area with models of some of the exhibit designs for the dogs to frolic and relax on. At the same time, there’s a separate gallery exhibition called Museum Menagerie to honor all our animals; canines will be further pleased to know that there’s one planned for 2014, called Tree. And the bold ideas don’t stop there.

“I’m going rogue,” Nelson said. “If you can carry your dog, you can bring the dog in.”

The Long Beach Museum of Art is located at 2300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Visit their website for information.

For centuries, they’ve cohabited with us, but we’ve never thought of how their needs fit in.

~ John Hall, cofounder of “Architecture for Dogs” exhibit

hara-design-institute haruka misawa japanese terrier

Japanese Terrier, designed by Haruka Misawa of Hara Design Institute

Here’s How the Other Half Lives

buddy in his house

chet and bruno

My friend Willa’s three dogs, Buddy, Chet and Bruno, make more than do (no pun intended) in the backyard snuggled in their igloo. Buddy, a Lab mix, said he’d opt for Hiroshi Naito’s spitz model, which would do wonders for his arthritis.

bob doghouse2

Meet Bob. He spent most of his life in shelters—over eight years, in fact. He was taken from his last “rescue” in the Inland Empire by Sherri Stankewitz of West Coast Animal Rescue (WeCARe) in Long Beach. WeCARe was, incidentally, the sponsor of the first Fix Long Beach’s free spay/neuter mobile clinic.

“He became a sentimental favorite of many of our volunteers, who wanted to do something special for him while he was still waiting for his forever home,” said Linda Josey, another WeCARe volunteer. “Thanks to many generous donors, Bob received his own special doghouse!”

“It’s also worth noting that the area Bob was in was called Bob’s Yard,” added Leslie Bryant, also with WeCARe. “After so many years in a too-small for him kennel, Sherri couldn’t bear to keep him cooped up, so he got his own yard.”

He also got his own home in April. He’s now living happily in Central California, enjoying the dog parks and beaches with his four new doggie siblings!

Virtually Pets

If you must have a small purebred for one of these fine structures, it may or may not surprise you to know that a number of them get abandoned in rescues and shelters. Lots of friends in need are available through breed-specific rescues at Petfinder.com and PetHarbor.com. Here are a couple of local candidates:

carlie cola wecare

Carlie Cola, a young chocolate lab, is spayed, up-to-date with routine shots and house-trained. She’d prefer a home without: cats or other dogs. Find her at Sparky and the Gang, Long Beach, Calif.

gloria maltese sbacc

Gloria is a white female Maltese, a year and a half old. She’s been spayed and inoculated, and can be met at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center.

oliver amrt

Oliver is an older male toy or teacup poodle. He’s been neutered and house-trained and is up-to-date with shots. Oliver’s good with everyone, be they kids, cats or other dogs. He needs to spend his sunset years in a forever home. He’s available at Animal Match Rescue Team, and you can most likely meet him on weekends from about 11AM–2PM in front of the Petco on PCH and Second Street.

Pet Projects

found dog

Found Dog

This miniature-poodle/shih tzu mix male was found June 10 in Bixby Knolls near Maple Avenue and San Antonio Drive. He’s a big boy at 20 pounds and has mostly white curly hair with gray shih tzu ears. He has the classic underbite with a second row of teeth on the bottom. He has a long, full, curled-upward shih tzu tail and large, brown eyes. He was found wearing a black, cloth collar that he foster says is too large for him and keeps coming off, but he has no tags and isn’t chipped or neutered. He was filthy when found but has been cleaned. If this is your dog, e-mail [email protected]. Then, for crying out loud, take better care of him. Get him neutered and chipped—Animal Care Center has a voucher program.

fix long beach

Saturday, June 22, Volunteers Needed for Fix Long Beach’s Free Spay/Neuter Clinic, Bixby Park, 130 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, 10 AM

Help us out at our second mobile clinic, sponsored this weekend by Haute Dogs. Sign up to volunteer here. Animals with appointments only will be served. If you need to make an appointment, call (323) 413-7729—low-income Long Beach residents only.

Rosie Outlook for Our Dog Beach

The Coastal Commission has approved an amendment request to expand Rosie’s Dog Beach eastward, between Roycroft and Argonne avenues on the Belmont Shore beach, from 2.9 to 4.2 acres—about 1,000 feet by 180 feet for a net gain of 295 linear feet of shoreline. The expansion will move it closer to the Granada Launch Ramp, which provides a “natural paved entrance” to the Dog Beach. This is great news for those who enjoy romping in the surf with their dogs and those of us who don’t have dogs but fully support recreational areas for them. However, the beach is a hard-earned privilege. Please continue to earn it by following the rules. And, of course, continue to have a great time!

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”