Friday, November 26, 2010

Dogs and Impact of Use of Space

Growing up, dogs were a constant presence in my family. However, as an adult, I never thought that I would be able devote enough time to be a responsible dog owner, and I had resigned myself to enjoying the dogs of friends. That all changed four years ago when two little dachshunds entered my life accompanied by my partner. I quickly remembered the extensive level of commitment required by dog ownership in terms of time and money. The payoff comes with the unconditional love and affection.

I set out to study the infrastructure of my dogs’ lives. I planned to examine their routines and habits. I began using digital photography to document their activities in the home and on their walks. In reviewing the photos, I discovered that even more interesting than the patterns of their lives were their impact on our routines and our home. For creatures so small, a significant amount of space is allocated to them. In addition, they have repurposed various elements in the home for their own use. Based on this initial exploration, I decided to shift my focus to looking at how the dogs use and affect our home.

I began to isolate certain areas of obvious impact. The dogs have a kennel as well as a few little beds scattered around on the floor. However, they have a fondness for napping and perching on the big down-filled cushions that form the back of the couches. They leave big dents or “smushes” in the cushions, requiring that we fluff them regularly. All the throw pillows and blankets that we so carefully selected and arranged have been appropriated for their comfort and left in disarray. I desaturated the photos of these areas so I could study the shapes. I then played with the forms by modeling them in Rhino. I also focused on geometries and textures by interpreting some of the shapes in 3D models. I diagramed the daily activities of the dogs and how the home is set up programmatically for them. Using the digital camera, I began to take short videos of the dogs during the activities I had identified in the diagrams.

I used an exercise to represent the collected information as fields in a computer model. Superimposed on a floor plan, I showed the dogs’ functional areas, where they impact the home, and the paths they take through the home. I explored my models through multiple iterations, focusing in on various elements and exploring the point of view of the dogs. In addition, I considered the effect of framing by the camera and the variations exposed by reproduction in different media. This led me to take a few extra videos to document the paths of the dogs through the home at their eye level.

The movie is comprised of video clips of the dogs in their activities, videos of the paths through the home, and still shots of the dogs and their impact on the space. The movie loosely follows the dogs through the day, represented as brief vignettes focused on particular activities. As they spend much of their much of their day sleeping or napping, I wanted to represent the episodic nature of their activity by cutting between videos and still photos. I tried to capture their positive presence in the home with upbeat music, but wherever appropriate I featured the sounds made by the dogs. The movie was compiled and edited in Windows Movie Maker. When necessary, the format of the component media was adjusted using QuickMediaConverter.


In a sense, the process of documentation, experimentation, and movie-making has served as a canine post-occupancy evaluation of the home. When the home was designed, the dogs were certainly taken into consideration. We chose durable textiles for the furniture, selected a hardwood furniture-style kennel, and designed storage areas. In reality, storage for the dogs’ food and supplies takes up about three times as much space as initially anticipated. The way that the dogs use the couches requires that we constantly have to spend time and effort to keep the place looking nice. In addition, dog traffic patterns are very different than human ones, which is not readily apparent until looked at explicitly. From the standpoint of the dogs, it can result in some “near-misses” in terms of clearance under furniture. For the humans, these paths can direct the dogs in ways that put them underfoot unexpectedly.



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