Review: “Top 10: Architecture of Pets”

…it’s about understanding how to build in relationship to, and in conversation with these “our most other ‘others.'”


Last week we featured the Architect’s Journal’s posting on the Top 10 built projects for pets and animals. The collection showed projects as disparate as Hampster trails, the Kuroshio Sea (the world’s second-largest fish tank) and the a Girraffe house. The goals of each project (stated or implied)  are just as varied, but the often covert stances adopted by each project towards their animal inhabitants are surprisingly similar. Each project has the basic task of making the animal habitats more accessible to Human visitors, but beyond that the projects can be arranged into two categories:

  1. Those designed to make the habitats partially or completely transparent (acrylic tubes, plexiglass walls)
  2. and those designed to anthropomorphize the animals, their habits and habitats (Cats climbing on city-map book cases, penguins walking on overpasses, and birds living in remade fascist houses).

In all cases (let’s not forget) the architecture is a modified cage and is quite clearly designed for the human more than the fish or the hampsters. And of course we should expected that right? Why would humans go through the trouble of building something that these other animals already build just fine on their own, or isn’t interesting to us? And maybe the real question is why build for animals at all… And I think we here at Animal Architecture would say that designing for the animal is generally fruitless (more on this later). For the most part the valuable discussion is not about making animal habitats interesting to tourists — it’s about understanding how to build in relationship to, and in conversation with these “our most other ‘others.'” Where is the architecture that presents an elevated level of interaction with other animals? When will we forget to forget that we are animals too?

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