Barkitecture 2013: House hunting for hounds

By Mary Ellen Knewston, Shawna Reding, Rebecca Wright and Rachel Marino 

A dog and owner try out one of the custom doghouses. Photo by Rebecca Wright

A dog and owner try out one of the custom doghouses. Photo by Rebecca Wright

For 14 teams of Austin builders and architects, there are no small design jobs–only small, four-legged inhabitants.

Each team designed and constructed a unique dog house for Barkitecture, Animal Lovers of Austin’s eighth annual contest and auction to benefit local animal welfare groups. Roughly 400 people attended the Sept. 28 event at Triangle park, its best turnout yet according to Animal Lovers of Austin Board Member Caroline Daigle. She said the nonprofit began hosting the event in 2007 to give local designers a way to place to put their skills to work supporting the city’s animal rescue community.

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“We have so many rescues and animals in Austin,” Daigle said. “This a fun way to bring people together, have their dog come out, test all these houses and do something to help the rescue community.”

Animal Lovers Austin is still finalizing this year’s total amount raised. Daigle said the group handed out $18,000 in grants at their 2012 Barkitecture auction, a total she expects to exceed this year. Grants are distributed to five rescue organizations each year, qualified by an application and voting process. This year’s beneficiaries were the Meals on Wheels and More PALS program, Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Lil’ Paws, Don’t Bully Me and Pug Rescue of Austin.

A silent auction, raffle and the doghouse auction itself funded the grants. Each house opened for bidding at $250, and many spurred bidding wars resulting in much higher final price tags.

“People want to be called to make sure they’re still the high bidder,” Daigle said. “It can get out of control pretty quickly. They get really excited about the houses.”

Seven designs were awarded prizes, in categories such as “Best In Show,” “Best Urban Dwelling” and “Greenest Design.” Winners tended to be houses that considered the taste of owners as well as the comfort level of their dogs. Big D Design Architect Dan Campos explained his firm’s contribution, which won a prize in the “Best Backyard Bungalow” category.

“This house is inspired by mid-century modern architecture,” Campos said. “It has very clean lines, and retro colors.”

He said the house’s side vents allow for airflow, and its rubber roof stops sun absorption to keep dogs cool on hot days. The house’s construction took two weekends, Campos said. His firm has now competed in four Barkitecture events, though this year is their first to win a prize.

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Girl places her dog into the water of the doghouse. Photo by Rebecca Wright

Girl places her dog into the water of the doghouse that won the Most Unusual award . Photo by Rebecca Wright

“We’re very excited,” Campos said. “It’s a opportunity to do something I really care about and that is good for the community.”

A pug brought by Pug Rescue of Austin is excited by the crowds. Photo by Rebecca Wright

A pug brought by Pug Rescue of Austin is excited by the crowds. Photo by Rebecca Wright

For Pug Rescue of Austin, one of the five Barkitecture beneficiaries, 100 percent of the money awarded to the organization will go toward paying veterinary bills for their pugs, Board of Directors Vice President Alicia Zalot said. Typically. The Pug Rescue of Austin’s expenses range from $5,000 to $7,000 each month, and the nonprofit organization relies on donations and volunteers, she said.

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“We are incredibly grateful,” Zalot said. “An event like this really goes a long way toward helping a lot of pugs.”

The organization also brought some of its rescued pugs to meet potential new families. Zalot said the interesting designs and atmosphere are a good way to attract people who would otherwise be unaware of the rescue community. The rescue organization hoped the event would encourage guests to consider adopting.

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Zalot’s organization is one of 110 animal rescue groups partnered with Austin Animal Services, the city’s official animal shelter and authority. Deputy Chief Chris Noble said partners are vetted to make sure they are responsibly run. He said Austin Animal Services relies on nonprofits to solicit donations and to take the lead on most fundraising events around town.

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“As a municipal shelter, we are stewards of taxpayer dollars, we have to be very careful about the money being spent and staying within the expectations of the taxpayer,” Noble said.

He said events such as Barkitecture are a good way to shed light on the homeless animal population in Austin.

To view the winning doghouses, click here. 

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