The world's top designers create (and crowdsource) 'architecture for dogs'

On a new website and an exhibition at Design Miami, a chic dog accessory project founded by MUJI's creative director plays with the boundaries of intellectual property.

Perhaps you are a fan of sleek contemporary architecture and product design -- so why couldn't your pet be, too? A new project launched earlier this month by Kenya Hara, the creative director of MUJI, the Japanese brand known for its minimalist goods that is revered by design aficionados around the globe, is about to offer pet-owners high-concept, yet elegant dog furniture and accessories. The press release for the project, supported by business incubator Imprint Venture Lab and called simply Architecture for Dogs, states specifically that the objects are "sincere." (The name does evoke a possibly ironic enterprise; the project's site is charmingly irreverent.) The roster of world-renowned designers involved, as well as a unique approach to bending the typical rigid intellectual property rules around original design by big-time creatives, indicate that the products are absolutely serious. They're meant to provoke thought -- as well as "awwws" from hipsters.

The pet beds and climbing structures in the Architecture for Dogs line were created for specific breeds, from Beagles to Toy Poodles, by some of the world's most avant-garde architects. The Beagle house (pictured above), for example, is far from Snoopy's cartoony abode, and is instead a slick structure by hip, adventurous Dutch architecture firm MVRDV. And a paper-based play structure for Papillons was created by Japanese designer Shigeru Ban, well-known for his temporary and poetic paper buildings. Other star designers involved include designer Konstantin Grcic, and the appropriately named architecture firm Atelier Bow Wow (these designers created beautifully sculptural natural-wood pieces for a Toy Poodle and a Dachshund, respectively).

An exhibition of the designs will be on view as part of the forthcoming Design Miami fair, which takes place from December 5-9 and is an international destination for chic design curators, collectors, manufacturers, and dealers. There are free blueprints and video instructions for building each of the thirteen dog-friendly designs featured in the project available online, and pet owners are encouraged to create their own or adapt the original plans as they wish. They can upload their remixes of the famous designers' ideas onto the Architecture for Dogs site. A related book is planned for fall 2013 release, and next year will also mark an exhibition at Tokyo's Toto Gallery as well as commercial versions of the pet goods, which will be for sale. (No prices have been announced yet.)

Looking at statistics on how spending on pets is increasing in the United States alone, it's possible that the high-design-meets-democratic-design approach of Architecture for Dogs may take off. The American Pet Products Association, a non-profit trade organization, estimates that U.S. pet owners will spend $52.87 billion on their furry friends this year -- which would be an increase from the actual spend in 2011 of $50.96 billion. That figure has been rising each year since 1994, even during the most recent recession. While Hara's concept may seem primarily a fun cultural spectacle, it might also prove to be a viable commercial venture, too.

Images: from top, designs by MVRDV, Kengo Kuma, and Konstantin Grcic, all photographed by Hiroshi Yoda

[via press release, American Pet Products Association statistics]

This post was originally published on