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Bonehenge, winner of the Barkitecture luxury kennel design competition in the UK which drew top designers and architects including ex-Apple design chief Jony Ive, and Foster + Partners. Photo: Kevin Poon, Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects

Luxury dog kennel design competition draws Foster + Partners architects, former Apple design chief and bespoke furniture maker David Linley among others

  • Designers such as ex-Apple design chief Jony Ive, and architects including Foster + Partners, created bespoke luxury dog kennels for a charity contest and sale
  • Bonehenge, designed by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects, was adjudged the winner of the Goodwoof Barkitecture competition, which raised over US$37,500

It might seem barking mad. Or a ‘paw-sitive’ contribution to animal welfare. Either way, finding yourself in the doghouse ain’t what it used to be – especially when it raises hundreds of thousands of charity dollars.

Luxury dog kennels recently took over one corner of a slice of British countryside recognised worldwide for its racecourse. As part of the inaugural Goodwoof event, held at Goodwood on England’s South Downs in support of the Dogs Trust rescue society, architects and designers presented their inventive contributions to canine comfort.

In the Barkitecture marquee, 16 competition finalists each displayed a one-off kennel to be auctioned for the trust after an overall prizewinner had been chosen.

The finalists were sifted from more than 150 entrants; among them were Australia’s Marc Newson, ex-Apple design chief Jony Ive and architecture firm Foster + Partners, whose Russell Hales, senior partner architect, explained the genesis of a flattened, multi-panel dog “pod” previously test driven to satisfaction at the firm’s London offices by rescue mongrel Smith.

We are asked to design everything from skyscrapers to cities to door handles, but I don’t think anyone had asked us for a kennel before
Russell Hales, Foster + Partners architects

“It all stemmed from a conversation with [Sir] Norman [Foster],” said Hales. “He worked, and has a huge affinity, with Buckminster Fuller, who developed the geodesic dome, and he has designed many geodesic structures himself, so there was an instant homage.

“That’s how we came up with the geometry, triangulating the engineered cherry wood shell shape.”

One Woman and Her Dog, an entry in Goodwoof’s Barkitecture auction and competition in the UK. Photo: Richard Hawkes/ Hawkes Architecture
Dome-Home, by Foster + Partners. Photo: Katy Harris/Foster + Partners
Love From, by Jony Ive and Marc Newson. Photo: Stephen McCarty

Creating a kennel, however well appointed, was a departure for the firm behind Hong Kong’s HSBC Main Building in Central, The Gherkin in London and other global landmarks.

“Mike Holland, head of industrial design and I worked closely with Norman, approaching it as a mini-architectural piece and a chance to make a beautifully crafted item – an enclosed kind of den, essentially a luxury basket,” said Hales.

“We considered wild dogs living in their dens, much more dug-in structures, and we looked at shells to create an enclosure,” he said.

What became known as the Dome-Home is “roughly a metre in diameter, round in its footprint but compressed in height – like a squashed sphere”, said Hales.

“We are asked to design everything from skyscrapers to cities to door handles, but I don’t think anyone had asked us for a kennel before.”

It is unclear whether any of the unique designs auctioned by Bonhams will go into production.

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Although bespoke dog kennels (realised first, perhaps, through the vision of Japanese designer Kenya Hara and his Architecture for Dogs initiative) might seem an extravagance, their sale at Goodwoof raised more than £30,000 (US$37,500) for the Dogs Trust.

The winner of the competition was Bonehenge, designed by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects and fashioned from Accoya, a modified wood that offers great durability. Hong Kong-born and -raised Kevin Poon, of BPRA, played a key role in developing the design for Bonehenge, in which timber bones enclose an elliptical hideout.

The star at auction, however, was the plywood palazzo Doge’s House, by bespoke furniture maker David Linley, nephew of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, which generated £6,000.

Other designs included Stanton Williams Architects’ wooden combined chair and cubby hole The Nook (handy for cramped apartments); Le Cork et Modular Dog sofa and elevated viewing platform, by Lincoln Miles Architecture; Le Dogular Zero Waste Kennel, built from a single plywood sheet, by Hopkins; and One Woman and Her Dog, a “recyclable survival vessel for two”, by Hawkes Architecture, which conjures Kacey Wong’s Paddling Home floating house, now at Hong Kong’s M+ museum of visual culture.
Bonehenge, by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects, winner of the Goodwoof competition for luxury dog kennels Photo: Stephen McCarty
The team behind Bonehenge (from left): Richard Portchmouth, Mike Russum and Kevin Poon.
Alfie’s Attention, by Joe Ellwood, designer and managing director of Six Dots Design.
The Nook, by Stanton Williams Architects. Photo: Stephen McCarty

Touching down as if from a sci-fi film was Alfie’s Attention, reminiscent of an Apollo lunar module, by Joseph Ellwood of Six Dots Design. Fashioned from solid pine and intended to entertain a particularly energetic springer spaniel, the padded “craft” features built-in, treat-dispensing puzzles for an inquisitive resident to crack.

Suggestive of an African village dwelling was the startling Suffolk Sight-Hound Hut, by Sanei Hopkins, with a straw roof topping curved, corrugated metal walls.

The Dome-Home – which went under the hammer for £4,600 – was made by Benchmark Furniture of Berkshire and was envisaged by Hales as “a piece of furniture in a fantastic home”.

“The beauty of timber [lends] a real touch of luxury. And that runs through to the interior, lined with Alcantara fabric, as used in sports cars,” he said.

“It’s complete luxury – more luxurious than my living room. Every Aston Martin owner should have one!”