Humane society campus designs ‘break stereotypes, capture spirit’

Zhipeng Lu

Second-year Texas A&M environmental design students showcased master plan concepts for a future Aggieland Humane Society campus at an April 27 Brazos County Expo Center unveiling attended by a host of the organization’s staff and volunteers. The studio project, directed by Zhipeng Lu, a senior lecturer in the Department of Architecture, was conceived to inspire future development of the society’s Bryan facility.

Six, three-student teams collaborated on what for most was their first large-scale master planning project — designing several buildings for a 17-acre campus, integrating existing structures and contending with a few flood-prone areas on the site.

“The shelter has a lot of existing buildings that aren’t well-designed,” said Lu, who is also associate director of the Texas A&M Center for Health Systems & Design. “The challenge was to design the whole site plan and make new and old buildings work together. For second-year students, I am very impressed with what they came up with.”

The students’ designs, portrayed in models, renderings and sketches, included buildings for animal quarantine, offices, a spay and neuter clinic, puppy and kitten playrooms, dog parks, adoption counseling rooms and classrooms for dog training. To better utilize the site, the budding master planners rerouted existing roads and added walking paths to water elements.

Though years away from building new facilities, said Kathy Bice, executive director for Aggieland Humane Society, they are working on a master plan to guide future expansion.

Throughout this uniquely challenging 10-week project, humane society staff visited the studio to monitor students’ progress and assist with solutions. The students also gained valuable insight from touring and researching several existing animal shelters.

“Function was important to the humane society,” he said. “I’ve never designed for animals before, so having humane society staff come to the studio and provide direction improved the students’ work.”

Compassion for the shelter’s animal residents with natural lighting and an absence of bars and cages was a common theme among the students’ alternative solutions.

A cat’s tail inspired the curved series of buildings developed by the team of Mackenzie Anderson, Taylor Marshall and Macy Anderson. The “organic form,” Marshall said. “makes it easy to keep sick animals away from healthy animals and to move between buildings.”

Another team’s design encouraged the adoption of older animals typically slower to find forever homes, by prominently placing their space to the front of the kennel and moving the ever-popular puppies and kittens to the rear.

One team’s design called for the use of wooden screens to facilitate natural light and help regulate the indoor climate on days of extreme outdoor temperatures.

“They broke all the stereotypes for animal shelters in a good way,” said Bice. “There are no bars or cages in their designs. They brought light in to showcase the animals. They really captured the spirit of what we want for our future facility. We can take elements and ideas from these projects when designing the shelter.”

See related story, "Texas A&M architecture students design models for Aggieland Humane Society," by Bryan-College Station Eagle reporter Rebecca Fiedler.

Sarah Wilson

posted May 1, 2017