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Top 10: Architecture for pets

As it is revealed that Brad Pitt has designed a £50,000 gerbil cage for his children, The Architects’ Journal selects the 10 projects that best house our animal friends, from Lubetkin’s penguin house to a dog hotel in Las Vegas

10. Rotastak Hamster Cages

It is reported that Brad Pitt oversaw the construction and design of a £50,000 gerbil house at his French chateau for children Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne. The apparently boasts tunnels, platforms, seesaws and mazes. According to The Sun, a source said: ‘It’s incredibly complex and cost a lot but Brad’s more than happy with any activity that can combine his two passions - his kids and architecture.’

Well, we’ve got one word for Brad Pitt: Rotastak. The abundance of modular and prefabricated elements available provides a palette with which any enthusiastic amateur can create bespoke rodent residences.

The cages’ characteristic garish colour schemes, disregard for context and externalised services and circulation are reminiscent of Richard Rogers’ Pompidou Centre and Lloyd’s Building.

With endless extensions possible for what could be a rapidly expanding population, the cage builds upon the model provided by Peter Cook’s ‘Plug in City’ with components added as and when the needs of inhabitants dictate.

 

9. Dictators Birdhouses, Kent by Consarc

The last thing you would expect to find in a forest near Kent would be reinterpretations of the residences of some of history’s greatest despots. But, in October 2008, a collaboration between Consarc and London Fieldworks replicated Stalin’s ‘Palace of Culture and Science’, Mussolini’s ‘Palazzo della Civilta Italiana’ and the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s ‘Palace of Parliament’ in the canopy of Kingswood, Kent.

The totalitarian architecture of these regimes served to emphasise the power of the leader and to intimidate the people into subservience. For the re-homed birds these theatrical installations are a comment on the ‘displacement of communities through development’. The idea being that non-native birds, as well as locals, would occupy the installations. The installation strips the palatial forms of negative historical prejudice and reinterprets them as positive interventions in the landscape.

Birds

 

8. Nekobukuro, Tokyo

Found on the eighth floor of the Ikebukuro Tokyu Hands store, the Nekobukuro is a place for Tokyo residents to pamper one of up to 20 pedigree cats. The customers are charged 600 yen admission to the cat house, which provides an alternative to pet ownership for the residents of rabbit-hutch-style high-density accommodation.

The brightly coloured postmodern cat-crèche provides the feline residents with a series of ‘catwalks’ to parade in front of their clients. This commodification of cats provides the model for the future of pet ownership: herds of humans owning one animal.

 

7. Penguin House, London by Berthold Lubetkin

The second commission for Lubetkin’s ‘Tecton’ group was completed in 1934 and is now Grade-I Listed. The project was developed in collaboration with Dane Ove Arup and has since been popular with architects and public alike. The sculptural concrete ramps demonstrate the sculptural possibilities of concrete and the clean modern form remains an inspiration.

The building was conceived as a ‘stage set’ for the penguins, the walkways were inspired by a double helix – a form hugely popular with the constructivists.

Lubetkin’s pool falls down only at the crucial ‘form versus function’ level: in recent years the pool has been criticised as the concrete is damaging to the penguins’ feet and the pools are not deep enough for the birds to swim in.

Happy penguins or not, the popularity of the building remains: as Ruskin once said – ‘One can’t be angry when one looks at a penguin.’

 

6. The Budongo Trail, Edinburgh by Cooper Cromar

The Budongo Trail at Edinburgh Zoo houses up to fifty chimpanzees and opened to the public in May 2008. The centre was designed by architects Cooper Cromar.

Areas within the enclosure vary in light, humidity and temperature to reflect the different characteristics of the chimps’ natural habitat. The primates are offered the freedom of movement to select which climate within the centre they like the most. The centre boasts the world’s largest climbing frame for apes which was constructed by the British Army.

The £4.5 million building also houses an exhibition and lecture space to educate visitors about the conservation program that Edinburgh Zoo supports in Budongo.

The public ‘weave’ in and out of the chimp enclosures along prescribed routes, a variety of tunnels and bridges offer the chimpanzees unrestricted views of their human visitors.

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Excellent Content. It's exciting and encouraging to see this kind of work reaching a wider audience. For more information and commentary about the above story and many other animal architecture topics please check out www.animalarchitecture.org

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  • Very entertaining article, particularly enjoyed the John Ruskin quote

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  • AJ - why don't you address some of the serious issues facing architects in 2009 ? Workloads, registration, public perception, diminishing roles, planning, GLA the future ?

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  • Peter,

    The need for architects to responsibly consider the "natural" environment and the other beings that reside within it is, I feel, one of the most important issues facing architects now and at any time. The day-to-day ability to maintain the practice of architecture is only a fraction of the duties of an architect. And while the content here may be of a light-hearted nature the implications are far reaching.

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  • Very inspiring article. I really want to own a hamster now.

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  • Peter,

    The need for architects to responsibly consider the "natural" environment and the other beings that reside within it is, I feel, one of the most important issues facing architects now and at any time. The day-to-day ability to maintain the practice of architecture is only a fraction of the duties of an architect. And while the content here may be of a light-hearted nature the implications are far reaching.

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  • Peter

    You seem very tense. Ever thought about getting a pet?

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  • I've found that Rotastaks are excellent when based on firm foundations but have a tendency to fall apart when transported by car. It's somewhat disconcerting to look in the rear view mirror to see your hamster scuttling along the parcel shelf! Perhaps someone could design a flexible tube-joint.

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