Animal House

TDE catches up with curator Kristen de la Vallière as her animal-centric design exhibition opens in Copenhagen.

Etage Projects​​​​​​​​, Copenhagen
10th February – 28th April 2022


By Kristen de la Vallière / 28th February 2022
Anaïs Borie, 'Aesop Paradise' Throne, ??? COURTESY: Anaïs Borie & Etage Projects

Anaïs Borie, ‘Pet Altar’, 2022
COURTESY: Anaïs Borie & Etage Projects

ON 10TH FEBRUARY, Etage Projects in Copenhagen opened the show ‘Animal House’. Conceived and curated by American curator Kristen de la Vallière, we went straight to the fountainhead to discover what lies behind its charm and quirkiness …

Installation view COURTESY: Etage Projects

Installation view
COURTESY: Etage Projects

TDE: How did this project come about? And what was the motive behind it?
KdlV: I was lucky enough to be welcomed by the wonderful Maria Foerlev of Etage Projects in Copenhagen to curate this show in her gallery. The exhibition is an exploration of shifting the focus from human-centred design to thinking about the needs, comfort and experience of non-human species living within a domestic setting. I spent the extremely strict first lockdown in Paris with my 14-year-old house cat Otto, where, with the pandemic confinement, I was only allowed out of the apartment for one hour per day. I started to realise that as the higher authority in the household, it was important for me to investigate his habitat, comfort and his own personal belongings rather than expecting him to only use mine.

Kwangho Lee, 'DOCHI', 2022 COURTESY: Kwangho Lee & Etage Projects

Kwangho Lee, ‘DOCHI’, 2022
COURTESY: Kwangho Lee & Etage Projects

As citizens, we then experienced the government, our higher authority, dictating what freedoms we were allowed to engage in for the sake of our wellbeing. We shifted our attention from social gatherings to our home, our comfort, what made us feel comfortable and what made us thrive in a domestic setting. This prompted me to consider that Otto was unable to do that and I started exploring the idea of what would make him feel comfortable and thrive in our shared space.

Installation view COURTESY: Etage Projects

Installation view
COURTESY: Etage Projects

TDE: How did this become a design project?
KldV: I asked 14 designers to investigate different domesticated species that we often welcome into our homes and families, and design with their needs in mind. The designers researched how these animals build for themselves in nature, what colours and textures they respond to – or are even able to see – and what they are lacking in terms of entertainment as they aren’t living in their natural habitat.

???? COURTESY: Etage Projects

Alexis Bondoux, ‘Hi Figg’, 2022
COURTESY: Etage Projects

In the end, we wanted to explore a way to foster better relationships within inter-species households and to create a more comfortable space for our most beloved non-human friends to improve their living conditions and also to give them a bit of luxury.

TDE: Can you pick out a couple of examples of how the designers rose to your challenge?
KldV: I really appreciated Tessa Silva’s research into not only what made lizards feel comfortable in their natural habitat, but also their cultural representations and mythological relationship to humans. She has developed a milk protein material that she works with, which adds another dimension to the project. Craig Barrow did a lot of research into the colour spectrum that cats and dogs are able to see, as well as what invigorates and attracts them and began his design process with that in mind. I love all of the pieces but I almost feel like I need to move somewhere with a garden for that Camillo Bernal birdhouse/habitat, which I feel like I need in my life!

Installation view COURTESY: Etage Projects

(Left to right): Camillo Bernal, ‘Le Nichoir (birdhouse)’; 2021 Orson Oxo van Beek, ‘A Free Bird Dares to Claim the Sky’, 2022; Camillo Bernal, ‘La lampe chauffante’, 2021 
COURTESY: Etage Projects

Animal House at Etage Projects, Borgergade 15E​​​​​​​​, DK-1300, Copenhagen K​​​​​​​​

Article by Kristen de la Vallière
Article by Kristen de la Vallière
Kristen de la Vallière is a design curator, consultant, and American curator based in Paris. She is founder of the curatorial design platform @sayhito_ View all articles by Kristen de la Vallière