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A palace for your pooch

25 September 2020

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

‘While the architecture is “for dogs”, each of the contributors taking part in this unique project is a first-class, world-renowned architect.’ So says Hara Kenya, creative advisor for ‘Architecture for Dogs’, an exhibition at Japan House London (until 10 January 2021) that does what it says on the (Pedigree Chum?) tin in presenting 16 architectural designs for different dog breeds.

No Dog, No Life!, Sou Fujimoto (for Boston terrier).

This pet project certainly boasts some big names, with structures by the likes of Shigeru Ban (with a ‘papier papillon’) and Kengo Kuma (with ‘mount pug’) on display. (Nothing by Quinlan Terrier though!) Rotterdam-based studio MVRDV presents a kennel that looks like a monopoly house crossed with some kind of rocking chair: ‘an interactive toy which is at the same time a stimulating environment for the intelligent Beagle breed to enjoy.’ Knowing that poodles are a little self-regarding, the German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic has built them a plinth from which they can gaze on themselves in a Hollywood-style vanity mirror.

Papier Papillon, Shigeru Ban Photo: Hiroshi Yoda

It’s a lot of fun (and we need fun right now), even if perhaps a paw relation of the canine indulgences of the 18th century. Just look at the luxury that Marie Antoinette’s mutt could count on, with this niche de chien in gilded pine, silk and velvet:

Dog kennel (c. 1775–80), Claude I Sené. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Or this courtly pavilion from Qing dynasty China, replete with rings of rare white jade:

Dog cage (goulong; late 18th-early 19th century), China. Philadelphia Museum of Art

But the former is at the Met, the latter at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – both institutions with a chien ban for visitors. The exhibition at Japan House London ‘offers smaller dogs the opportunity to interact with a number of the designs’. Woof!

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