MEXICO CITY -- Well-groomed dogs explored the museum, pawing over a nest of foam noodles, exploring the dark tunnel of a twisted hot pink house, pouncing inside a wok-shaped playpen -- all designed for the refined canine by up-and-coming Mexican architects.
"The typology of dog houses hasn't changed or evolved over time and it's been totally ignored or perhaps never even considered by architects and designers," according to the introduction to the new exhibit, "Dogchitecture."
That's changing. Dogchitecture, open in Mexico City's Polyforum Siqueiros museum through August, took inspiration from Kenya Hara's Architecture for Dog's project, which brings together 13 architects to create dog-friendly concepts such as a pooch stroller, an architected "cloud" outfit sized for a Chihuahua, and a mirrored vanity for a toy poodle. Architecture for Dogs has its own exhibit at California's Long Beach Museum of Art through September.
In the Mexico City exhibit, architects created conceptual spaces that could easily double as art objects. The architect of one house described her design as "a sort of artificial ovum." Another created a module that, by tightening or loosening a cord, could alternately be a flat surface, a "wok" or an "igloo."
Dog owners shared different opinions about whether they could imagine any of these conceptual dog houses in their own home.
"For me, it's like art," said Catalina Gonzalez, an artist herself, who brought along her xoloitzcuintle, Chanok, an indigenous Mexican breed of hairless dog. "But they don't look very practical."
Fabiola Liparoli said she’d love to have something so different for her miniature pincher, Ristretto. "It’s so novel," she said, as her dog climbed into the twisted hot pink house.
Mexico City has seen a boom in high-end pet care businesses, from expensive grooming to home-delivered organic dog food to luxury kennels. Design-driven dog houses represent a natural extension of that expanding market, according to Edgar Jurado, marketing manager with Dogchitecture sponsor Nuugi, an operator of pet "hotels" and spas in Mexico City.
Mexico's pet care market more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, from $863.5 million to $1.9 billion last year, according to Euromonitor. Spending has increased as Mexico's pet culture has evolved toward greater care.
"The pet market is growing so much," Jurado said. "Doing these types of events with well-known architects, and including dogs, helps us support this trend, that the dog is one more member of the family."
(While pampered pets can be found in the capital’s wealthier neighborhoods, the more common sight in most areas of the city is still a dog left outside in all weather on a roof or balcony for "protection," and rarely or never walked.)
Fancy dog houses may remain museum fixtures for the most part, but such exhibits serve to elevate the local pet culture, said Julieta Torres, who left her three dogs at home for the event.
"For people who like dogs, this can foment better care for pets," she said.
For those who may think canine design is nothing more than a gimmick, Hara asserts on his website that architecture for dogs "is sincere architecture," driven by a desire "to bring a new kind of joy in the relationship between dogs and humans."
Photos courtesy Dogichtecture