Kenya Hara

Architecture for Dogs

Written by Carmen Bright


“Remember that link I posted a while ago?” My friend pulls out her phone to search her bookmarks. We’ve been discussing plans for her big house move over dinner.
“The ‘Architecture for Dogs’ one. We’re going to build the dachshund thing for Lexie.”
She quickly pulls up the site and a beagle next to a very geometric ‘A’ barks us a greeting. Tinkling music suddenly serenades a variety of dogs—playing dogs, chasing dogs, sleepy dogs— before a chart skims through the history of dog breeds. But before the introduction goes any further, she brings up something called “Architecture for long-bodied-short-legged dog.” A strange name, but a moment of clarity hits and I totally get it.
Lexie, a mystery mutt who’s not quite as short-legged but rather long-bodied like a dachshund, would enjoy this architecture. It’s a two-level ramp that brings the dog into a comfy burrow, and then further goes onto a seating platform, where both Mum and Lexie could sit together at eye level, making both parties happy. It’s a structure to bring human and dog closer together, and it’s not the only one either! 12 more structures were designed with specific dog breeds in mind, challenging the relationship between dog and humans.
Over time, it’s been pretty clear that dogs have become an extension of one’s self, or a part of family. We treat them like they are our own kind, our own children. It’s this progressing relationship between man and dog that intrigued Japanese designer Kenya Hara to explore, and curate this exhibition that revolves around the dogs’ experience with both its human and natural environment.


Architecture for Dogs is an exhibition running in Miami Design District that involves 13 world-known designers, who’ve been asked to design a structure for specific dog breeds. Hara himself is among these contributing designers. His own project was the “D-Tunnel,” a simple stairway tunnel to bring the teacup poodle to finally see eye-to-eye with their human from their own standpoint, enriching the small dogs experience. Take a moment to be in their fluffy paws: being so tiny, spending all your life looking up at everything else—save for the times where you’re picked up or toted around in purses — and you’re finally empowered to be on an equal viewpoint with everyone else.

I designed architecture for dogs to recapture our collective sense of smell and tactility from a dog’s point of view. Ultimately this is not about pets, but how we perceive things. I might work on architecture for sleep or swimming, which would give us new ideas about the subconscious and about movement.
– Kenya Hara (20 Odd Questions from The Wall Street Journal)

It may seem like pretty simple idea (a raised tunnel for a small dog!), but in context it’s much more complex, and it’s this kind of design thought is Hara’s specialty. He has a special talent for seeing the spaces in between. What may seem minimalist—in fact it is minimalist—is because what counts is below surface level. He explores the relationships between the user and the object, and creates to improve the fundamentals of someone, or something’s life.
Much like his work, the humble designer is more than what meets the eye. Hara is internationally known for his involvement with Muji, a global brand that offers modern, household goods. But his influence goes well beyond his seat on the company’s advisory board. As the Representative of Nippon Design Center, designer, author, educator, and curator, he plays many important roles in the design world. His work is renowned for it’s “nothingness.” Fighting the cultural trends and the current of technology, Hara encourages instead a breath of fresh air, a moment of Zen, a dash of tradition.
Much of Hara’s pursuit of emptiness is deeply rooted with Shinto traditions. Growing up in Tokyo with his Shinto priest father, the philosophy of “emptiness and potentiality” of Shintoism heavily shaped his focus on keeping things simple, but never understated. His work is minimalist; his focus is not just the “look” of object, but of the “why” of an object. Instead of creating yet another pretty disposable knick-knack, he yearns to create an experience, or an object to help enrich the user’s experience. Nothing is wasted, nor is it overused.environment.


But it’s not just all in theory. Though he has several books in which we can learn of his work and thoughts (Designing Design is his latest book available), he welcomes you to experience his work with a more hands-on approach.
With Architecture for Dogs exhibition, he invites everyone to actually build and recreate any of the 13 designers works. On the site he’s ensured that all the architects have provided downloadable blueprints for their projects, and have even made a share-space for those handy enough to try it to show off their re-creations.
So whether it’s a primpy tea cup poodle, or Lexie, or your dog, or even my dog (that Wanmock for the Jack Russel Terrier would be great sleeping spot for my Coco), Hara has created an experience that not only the design world can marvel on exhibition, but what we and our canine friends can emerge ourselves in too in our everyday lives.


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