Centered around the relationship between humans and dogs, Museum of the Dog activates the AKC’s mission with a visitor experience that educates, engages, and entertains a new generation of dog lovers and visitors through memorable experiences and distinctive design.
Relocating the museum from St. Louis to New York City, its original home, Gensler was enlisted to create a space that would capture a larger audience as well as reflect AKC’s past and future. In addition to supporting the museum’s 1,700 works of art in a relatively tight space, the design team was challenged with creating a holistic and compelling visitor experience that could compete against other activities that museums are up against. Additionally, the new museum had to satisfy the needs of visitors across various spectrums of age, level of interest, and learning style.
A powerful example of multidisciplinary design, the project involved 27 designers across five areas of expertise: retail programming, brand strategy, digital integration, interior design, and exhibit design. The holistic brand program (also by Gensler) includes signage, wayfinding, and print material with a new logo integrated throughout. Designers worked in partnership with the AKC to develop all of the content for the museum’s digital experiences and the traditional didactic panels. Given the museum’s relocation to New York City, Gensler also helped establish the art program and set guidelines for AKC’s Director of Cultural Resources.
Above the entrance, dog silhouettes trot across the façade, capturing the attention of passersby along the street. Upon entering the museum, which spans two floors with a double-height atrium space at the staircase, visitors are greeted with an interior that balances the old and new with the juxtaposition of classical elements and modern sensibilities. Spanning over 14 feet, seven rotating black steel art display walls showcase oil paintings and drawings. These layouts can be changed for different exhibits, making each visit to the museum feel unique.
A broadcast area adjacent to the open stair, hosts AKC.TV programming. Suspended above, an eight-foot tall wire-framed Labrador Retriever sculpture activates the double-height space. The staircase wraps around a 34-foot tall custom-made glass vitrine that holds rare porcelains and bronzes.
Atop the stairs lies a “Train a Dog on the Job” exhibit, which teaches visitors how to train a virtual puppy with hand signals and voice commands. Combining fine arts with technology, several other digital touchpoints are integrated throughout the space to encourage engagement, such as a “Find Your Match” kiosk that takes your photo—aligning your likeness with an AKC-registered dog breed—and a “Meet the Breeds” touchscreen table surface that accommodates more than four individuals to learn essential information about all 193 AKC breeds. A Gensler-designed app serves as an additional helpful guide equipped with AR experiences like a kid-friendly scavenger hunt, led by “Arty” the virtual dog.
In its first year, the museum received approximately 32,000 visitors and has been recognized as a must-see attraction by news outlets including the Today Show, USA Today, Travel+Leisure, NPR, and CBS News.
“How can this be such a beautifully designed and constructed exhibit, while also whimsical and fun?”
“The museum does a wonderful job of display, when a project on this subject matter could easily go in a totally different direction. It stood out to us because it was so atypical an approach. They found the happy medium between being cultivated and not taking itself too seriously.”
Jan Gross (principal in charge); EJ Lee (design director); John Bricker (creative director); Bevin Savage-Yamazaki (museum strategy and design advisor); Amanda Zaitchik (design manager); Matt Piechowiak (technical director and project architect); Jessica Barnhouse (project architect); Adi Marom (digital experience design director); Ryan Miller, Kelvin Chiang (graphic designers); Hannah Huff (strategist), Rose Ross Novak (project manager); Brandon Smart, Ju Hyun Lee (designers); Eileen Moore (environmental graphic designer)
Cathy Dixon/VVA Project Managers and Consultants (project management), Hillmann DiBernardo Leiter Castelli Inc. (lighting), Shen Milsom & Wilke (hardware systems design), Lord Cultural Resources (museum consulting), Milrose Consultants (expediting), Gramercy Tech (mobile app development), AV&C (software development), TriTech (AV integration), Gilsanz Murray Steficek (structural engineering), RP Visual (projecting), VDA (vertical transportation), Syska Hennessy Group (MEP), Cerami & Associates (acoustics),