RA-DA: Winner of World Design Awards 2023. As the first building of its kind, the Pet Resource Center is a revolution in the animal care industry. With kennels and cages intentionally omitted, it’s function is similar in many ways to an animal shelter, but its fundamental philosophy is the polar opposite.
Best Friends Animal Society has a goal of No-Kill by 2025. To achieve this they had to devise an alternate approach disrupting a 150 year-old industry.
Driven by data, they are building an infrastructure to transport animals from overpopulated parts of the country to underserved parts, and are housing shelter pets with local foster families rather than keeping them on site in kennels and cages that are detrimental to health and behavior.
Instead of hiding on the edge of town, this building is centrally located and easily visible and accessible to all. It houses a medical center for animals passing through and for local rescues, a community center filled with engagement activities for the locals and a support center for all the foster parents and animals. Events such as Knitting with Kittens, Foster Fridays and Adoption Saturdays keep them connected to the community and make this a model for future centers worldwide.
A deep dive into the local barn vernacular allowed us to parse and categorize that language into architectural strategies for form. These are the strategies we used to manipulate our roofscape to achieve an efficient and intentional peaking, merging, and kicking out of the slopes to traverse the site and shelter the program.
A NEW WAY
During Covid many shelters were shut down and as a result, a large network of foster parents emerged. Best Friends capitalized on this and halfway through design, we decided that the kennels had to go: The goal was to build a shelter of the future.
A CUSTOMIZED PROGRAM
This meant a different approach to the design of the building. We had to rethink the purpose, the flow and the program. This Center needed to be community-focused, inclusive, and welcoming. We needed to pull the public into the world of Best Friends and get them involved, either to donate, volunteer, adopt or foster. It needed to support its affiliated rescues, foster parents, and the animals. It needed to provide adequate medical care and spay and neuter services. It needed to educate on all aspects of animal care including dog behavior or kitten feeding. It would even provide a community pantry for parents that were in need. Alongside this, there needed to be a ‘transport’ component that could support the relocation of pets across the country. The spaces are designed around these functions and creatively support these aspirations.
COMMUNITY AND CONNECTION
The building form makes a logical split between the main Community spaces to the north and the more technical Medical and Support spaces to the south. The linking elements are the front courtyard and Porch spaces and the Volunteer Bridge. With parking to the south, and pulled away from the building, visitors approach on foot from the front porch, passing a large dog-themed mural by a local artist. The Medical wing is pulled back so that a clear path to the front door is revealed. This side entry to the main lobby space is intentionally incidental and as such inclusive to all. Visitors can ‘slip in’ easily without much pomp.
The axis of the main community lobby space provides stunning views of the park to the east and west capturing the sunrise in the winter and the sunset in the summer through its high peaked roofs and providing parkgoers respite.
Interior and Exterior spaces are connected wherever possible with open views and large operable glass doors. The two levels of the Community Wing also visually connected. The openness of the space invites and encourages exploration with public access given throughout the facility. Even the administrative space is open to view from the main lobby although most staff is working out in the main space making them easily approachable.
Stadium seating and a slide (for fun) takes guests downstairs to the dog enrichment room and second community room where Best Friends holds Adoption events, Dog Yoga classes amongst other enrichment events.
A critical backbone to the success of the non-profit: The volunteer bridge is held in esteem as it straddles the lower courtyard and is clearly visible from both the Community and Medical Wing Entries.
Every space within this wing is highly flexible: almost all spaces are open and furniture movable to accommodate change and the growth of the facility.
Pet Resource Center
World Design Awards Category
Public Building Built
Bentonville, Arkansas USA
Rania Alomar, Stephanie Odenheimer, Luisana Hernandez, Michael Green
RA-DA is an Architecture and Design firm based in West Hollywood, California. The firm is focused on finding innovative solutions to functional problems and allowing those to drive formal approaches to the architecture. RA-DA practices on all scales from furniture and interiors to urban interventions, and works with public and private clients interested in positively affecting public space and the built environment.