When Rania Alomar was hired to design a new animal shelter for the city of Los Angeles, the architect was given specific instructions: Create a temporary home for animals that increases their comfort, and by virtue of the shelter's design, makes people want to adopt a pet.
But can architecture really reduce euthanasia when the city's shelters are filled to capacity? Yes, Alomar said, if it’s a facility that people want to visit, a place where “you want to come in and feel like you are in a happy space.”
The $9 million South Los Angeles Animal Care Center is scheduled to open next month with 270 kennels, and the hope is that the facility will challenge the outdated perception of the animal shelter as dismal dog pound.
It’s a design experiment from an architect who has learned from experience -- designing an animal wellness center, an animal emergency room in Long Beach and a German Shepherd rescue facility in Santa Monica, where she is pictured here.
The exterior of the new South L.A. animal shelter is striking, with a front facade composed of a series of green stucco “ribbons” and concrete panels with overlapping foliage, shown at top. The modern design is a welcoming presence in a light industrial zone near Western Avenue and 60th Street.
But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the facility is its layout: Imagining the psychology of people who will come to the shelter to “shop” for pets, Alomar has designed the building with a retail model in mind. The architect thought of shoppers at a mall who allow themselves to be sidetracked by small boutiques on their way to a large department store, so at the shelter she created a series of displays with the hope of enticing them to consider “alternative” pets such as reptiles or bunnies or older dogs rather than, say, puppies, which are often the first to be adopted.