Animal and Architecture, Part I

By Louis Lin

For a lot of us, pets are an inseparable part of our lives. Their existence is integral to not only our daily routine but also our living space. For most people, to make a space accommodate the needs of animals seems somewhat of an indulgent idea. The difficulty partially lies in the paucity of information on the kinds of environments conducive to animals' well-being, not to mention different animals rely on different sensory modalities to experience the world. As pet-owners, we also don't see a lot of imaginative animal housing or enrichment that champion both form and function. However, the animal-loving design community has been quietly making strides in spatial and product design that not merely provide elegant solutions to animal needs, but at the same time create harmonious interspecific cohabitation scenarios, thereby promoting interaction between humans and our fur babies. 

'Architecture for dogs' was a project where high-profile architects and designers including Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito, Shigeru Ban, MVRDV, Konstantin Grcic, etc, designed a series of downloadable architectural structures for canines. You can actually go to their website, print out the templates, and build these cool houses for your own dogs!

A floating cone roof by Hara Design Institute that redefines boundary and the sense of enclosure 

A rocking gabled kennel designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV

Pritzker prize winner Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA designed a fur house inspired by the equally furry Bichon Frise

In the animal kingdom, very few species are able to recognize themselves in the mirror (Great ape, Elephant, Dolphin, Orca, and Magpie are the only ones accepted as such in the scientific community). The Poodle, arguably the smartest dog species, also anecdotally passed this test. Konstantin Grcic accordingly designed a mirror for a poodle.

Atelier Bow-Wow’s work on reimagining how to alter the way people interact with their pet- a lovely interspecific Tête-à-Tête 

Cat lovers need not despair. Architects for Animals, a nonprofit organization with a mission of providing better shelter for stray animals, launched a project that invited U.S. architecture firms to design cat refuge for feral, homeless cats. The project is in its 6th year and every year an auction is held for these one-off creations with proceeds going to FixNation, a LA-based spay-and-neuter group.

CallisonRTKL strikes a good balance between openness and privacy with this sculptural tower

Abramson Teiger Architects designed a kinetic play structure for cats to tip themselves over moving from one end to the other. A kind of see-saw cats can play on alone

HOK’s entry with stacked translucent tunnel houses a la Herzog de Meuron

This futuristic house by Knowhow Shop puts the cat in a tactile heaven with shingle walls and carved wood floor

Designed by Formation Association, Arktura and BuroHappold, the Tête-à-Tête brings the distance of man and cat closer, while respecting the specie's elusive and solitary nature 

I’ve also come across some beautifully designed products that could stand alone in any high-end interior without being an eye-sore. For example, a breathtaking cat tower by designer Yoh Komiyama for Japanese manufacturer Rinn, who is dedicated to creating stylish and health-conscious products for cats.


Holes and tunnels are sculpted into this whimsical wooden desk by Hong Kong-based LYCS Architecture to provide a playground for cats, and to make work a bit more playful for humans as well

British design studio Dote designed a collection wall shelving made of replaceable layered heat-pressed felt (so cats can scratch to their hearts’ desire). The warmth and softness of the material makes it perfect to nap on


How about a designer kennel that is functional and chic?

Although, cats are usually happy with just a small box 

Or, really just some taped shapes on the floor

IKEA launched a pet collection “Lurvig” last year which takes into account the typical needs and at times opposing personalities of cats and dogs. Affordable and beautiful!


There are also some outstanding examples of interior architecture that aim to elevate the human-animal cohabitation experience. Japanese architect Soichi Yamasaki created a sunken playpen for his Dachshunds. A small dog park within the home!  


A stunning floating cat house designed by Taiwanese designer Armin Cheng, who integrated it into space planning as a partition between public and private zones.

Cats can also experience a little Le Corbusier


I always feel the struggle for dogs, watching them climb stairs, which are typically designed for human strides. Architecture studio 07Beach in Vietnam took into consideration the body architecture of dogs and modified the pet’s route with narrower treads and shorter risers.


Animal cafes are all the rage in Japan, whereas New York is just about to catch up with the trend. One of the pioneer establishments is Meow Parlour in LES, featuring a shelving maze wall designed for cats, with integrated seating to facilitate cross-species interaction.

Animal planet started a new show last fall called “Animal Cribs”, featuring HGTV designstar winner and animal enthusiast Antonio Ballatore, joined by a team of “Barkitects” and “Cat-sperts”, to make over houses with a focus on interspecific cohabitation. The season is over but accessible on demand. There are some good tips if anyone needs ideas on enhancing their living quarters with some animal-friendly features.

This concludes the chapter on canines and felines. Lastly, a special gift for everyone in celebration of 2018, the Chinese zodiac year of the dog!