Ancient Norwegian woodworkers were responsible for devising some of the most complicated, labor-intensive, but elegant techniques for building with timber—second only to the Japanese, maybe. Forest-rich Norway is dotted with examples, from its Stave Churches to its timber log farmhouses. But it’s safe to say the vernacular tradition has been applied to very few dog houses.
As part of its annual Handmade issue, Wallpaper* magazine invites around a dozen designers to redesign ubiquitous objects—from rice cookers to camping tents—using handmade techniques. This year, the magazine commissioned Oslo-based Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects to rethink the doghouse. Seems like a pretty simple project, right? But chief architect Håkon Vigsnæs (who is incidentally extremely allergic to dogs) used the brief to experiment, designing the Happy Dog Retreat, a canine home that brings vernacular woodworking into the flatpack age.
Working with sustainable wood manufacturers Kebony and timber experts Moderne Materiell, the architects devised a structural system that draws on the so-called Norwegian Notch joint, in which each log is notched with a precise cut-out that knits the logs together in a weather-tight frame. Of course, in JVA’s made a few crucial updates—redesigning the notch to look like a milk bone, for one thing. The joints are attached to longer beams to form the A-frame shape of the shelter, and grey polycarbonate sheets keep the rain out while letting light in. When all was said and done, more thought went into developing this doghouse than into the average tract home.
Jarmund/Vigsnæs point out that their Happy Dog Retreat is more than the just a bone-shaped punchline. The Kebony wood is made with a new sustainable treatment that makes it strong as some endangered tropical hardwoods, and it arrives in a flatpack, making it possible for owners to assemble themselves. "It’s the result of modern manufacturing, with environmentally friendly Kebony wood as main material and CNC-milled forms," add the architects. We’ve seen plenty of "modernist" dog houses before, but this is a clever little experiment, which clearly took quite a bit of thought and research.
No word on when the house will be commercially available, but you can see the rest of the 2012 Wallpaper* Handmade products here.