Rob and I joke about our dog having his own architecturally designed dog house some day–there’s just something funny about imaging that our 23 pound mutt is an architecture snob. However, I didn’t know that in 1956, a 4-year-old black Lab named Eddie actually had his dog house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright! Architects & Artisans reports that Wright designed the dog house after 12-year-old Jim Berger wrote him asking if he’d design a house for his dog. Jim said he “would appreciate it if you [Wright] would design me a dog house, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house.” He referred to the Robert Berger House in San Anselmo, California, also designed by Wright–a prototype that somewhat fulfilled the architect’s original conception of the Usonian homes. At first, Wright politely declined saying he was too busy, but suggested that he write him again later in the year.
According to Architizer, after a second letter, the boy was surprised to receive a complete set of drawings for a small triangular dog house with a similar form to the hexagonal geometry of the main home’s hexagonal plan. Wright specified that scraps of the Phillipine mahogany and cedar used in the main house were to be incorporated in the dog house. There are several Wrightian details, like an inconspicuous entrance hidden on the opposite side of the structure and a low-pitched roof with generous overhang. The Bergers didn’t end up constructing the dog house until 1963 were it stood for ten years until it was dismantled. “Frankly, it’s the best story ever about Wright,” says filmmaker Michael Miner, who has launched a promotional tour for his new documentary Romanza on Wright’s work in California. “People think he was this curmudgeonly old architect, but here he was, breaking down and doing something wonderful for a 12-year-old.”
In 2010, the dog house was rebuilt exactly to Wright’s specifications by Jim Berger and his brother. Miner filmed the construction process and included it in Romanza. Jim admits the original house was shunned by Eddie and all subsequent dogs. “He didn’t like it–he liked to sleep by the warmth coming out of the front door,” he says. And even the new dog house suffers from a complaint common to many of Wright’s larger designs. “Yes, it does leak,” Miner acknowledges.