NEW YORK -- New evidence that architecture is going to the dogs: Canine critics at an exhibit of designer doghouses turned up their wet noses at the modernist "Bauwauhaus" and licked their chops over a "Dog Cabin" made of waterproof dog biscuits.
"Dog biscuits. That's the secret to good doghouse design," said Russ Post, who held the leash of a tan Labrador retriever. "Old Boris here really perked up when he saw them."
Old Boris didn't seem to like much of anything else on display outside the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt Museum, which challenged architects and designers to build a better doghouse for an exhibition that opened recently.
But the dogs who attended a preview of the luxury doghouses Thursday were confronted with the same architectural woes that dog human clients: cost overruns, self-indulgent designs, ignorance of the client's needs.
Their masters forced them into the doghouses for the benefit of photographers, but the dogs seemed unimpressed.
Cooper, a tan Lab puppy, had to be forced into the sleek, gleaming white Bauwauhaus. After one look around the spare, cold Corian plastic interior, he scampered out.
Dora, a black Lab pup, sniffed around but refused to enter the igloo-shaped "Guardian Dog House," possibly because of the 250-pound sculpture of a winged dog perched on the roof.
Ernie, an adult Lab, bumped his head as he tried to walk into "Lassie Come Home," a junked television console that was turned into a doghouse by Smart Design Inc.
To get an idea of how someone could try to pass off an architectural joke as doghouse, listen to Smart Design's Tom Dair, a talented designer of products such as toasters and sunglasses.
"There was no client, we didn't have to sell it, so we thought we'd have some fun," he admitted. "We basically decided dogs don't care where they sleep -- you see them under a tree, in the dirt -- so it didn't make sense to go into some labor-intensive process."
Inspired by the sight of a discarded television cabinet on a Harlem street corner, Dair and his colleagues bought a similar one for $40, painted it blue and equipped it with a corrugated fiberglass roof.
"What does it sound like when it rains?" he was asked.
"I don't know," he shrugged.
At this point Boris walked by. He glanced at the console with its rabbit ears antenna (that's a joke, Boris) and made a sound that sounded like a grunt.
Fortunately, he could not read the designers' explanation: "Television has become man's best friend -- dependable, lovable and entertaining."
The two most popular houses -- the Dog Cabin and "Dog House in the Mayan Style," both built with dog biscuits -- are impractical, because the inhabitants would either eat them or be frustrated by their inability to do so. The cabin's biscuits are covered with eight gallons of polyester resin waterproofing.
The temple contains 400 pounds of dog biscuits. Post kept Boris on a tight leash and told him, "We can't have you salivating every time you walk in front of the Mayan Temple."
Each architect was given $1,000 with which to build, but almost everyone spent far more. Michael MacLeod said he spent his share just on the dog bones that he stuck in the walls of his Guardian Dog House.
Other doghouses seemingly designed more to amuse humans than shelter animals included a pyramid, "The Cheops Doghouse"; a classical temple for "Fido"; "Don't Fence Me In," which is entered through a door that looks like a hole in a fence; and the mythologically inspired "Trojan Dog," built in the shape of a dog.
At least none of the doghouses looked like a fire hydrant, which may explain why none of the canine critics resorted to the ultimate insult.
The show runs through Oct. 14.