New Digs for Doggies

March 31, 2000

Matt Henkel (T '02)

The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is looking for a few good homes. Not only is the organization seeking owners for the thousands of cats, dogs and the handful of more exotic animals that pass through its doors, but it is also seeking a new home for its facility, now located on Japonica Street in the lower Ninth Ward.

Turning to the Tulane School of Architecture, the SPCA asked John Klingman, professor of architecture, for help. Klingman responded by devoting an upper-level design studio to finding a new site for the facility and designing a new building.

The SPCA is looking for a more accessible, modern and attractive facility, Klingman says. The current building "is really kind of on the edge of things near the Industrial Canal," he says. "It's sort of a residential neighborhood street, rather invisible and hard to find."

The 13 fourth- and fifth-year architecture students in the studio talked with SPCA staff members about their needs for the facility. They learned that the organization wants room for educational programs, a veterinary clinic, an animal holding area, an adoption area, an outdoor exercise site, offices and a cafi. With this in mind, the students toured the current facility with Klingman and SPCA staff, and then proposed a new 48,600-square-foot building, about twice the size of the current building. The students scoured the city and found four vacant sites that are large enough to accommodate such a facility.

Once the students had gathered the necessary technical information, they were ready to develop the design. Since one of the main reasons for relocating the SPCA is to give the facility greater visibility in the community, student designs emphasize different ways of attracting attention.

These methods include a project with a silo-like "adoption arena," where animals reside in vertical levels along a circular wall looking over an open space where conferences and other activities take place. Another design includes "get acquainted" rooms with windows that allow people to be visible from the street while they play with the animals.

Klingman says these designs center on attracting the public while being functional and well-organized. One student, Paul Cline ('00), says that it is important to integrate design issues with those of urban development.

"The way I see urban planning is that adding strategically placed public elements in a city continues the sense of neighborhood."

Cline says working with the SPCA staff also helped the students translate their classroom knowledge of technical architectural terminology into everyday language. "Sometimes [the architectural jargon] can be stimulated to the degree that the person who's talking might not even know what they're talking about," says Cline.

The students provided the SPCA with ideas for designs and locations for a future facility, Klingman says, adding that while these student designs are not going to be constructed, the organization will use them to help raise money for the actual project.

"I think the most challenging and ultimately the most satisfying aspect of the project was that it worked," Klingman says. "The SPCA people ended up being very happy with our work, and the students ended up being satisfied that they had done strong design work."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000