Shelter to Habitat

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Virginia Tech


South of the Anacostia River in Washington DC, the Oxon Run park runs through the Washington Highlands and Congress Heights neighborhoods. Though these neighborhoods sit within Ward 8 of DC, which is has the lowest education levels and household incomes, Oxon Run park acts as a lively community magnet, sitting adjacent to the metro station, a vibrant community center, the public pool and multiple schools. One resource that is lacking in Ward 8, similarly to under served communities around the country, is animal care. Pets For Life, an organization that attempts to address this inequity, states "...there are animal resource deserts—entire neighborhoods with no veterinarians, no pet supply stores, no groomers, and no animal welfare infrastructure. When there are no veterinarians in a community, standard wellness care is not the norm—and familiarity, experience, and knowledge concerning common pet health concerns do not exist"¹

This thesis design, Shelter to Habitat, attempts to provide a place for dog care, sheltering, homing and education to a community that needs it. It pushes the definition of sheltering and provides dogs with a space scaled and intentionally designed for their mental and physical health. The design prioritizes light, materiality and airflow to create a space that responds to the life of a dog. It addresses the needs of the community and integrates into the fabric of the neighborhood. The design creates an adaptive building that adjusts to the scale of the dog, while providing a public and private face that addresses the various needs of the community.

In this proposed dog shelter design, the 1st floor, which faces the Oxon Run park, acts as the public face of the building. This space houses adoptable dogs, volunteer work spaces, training rooms, and community classrooms. This floor fluctuates the interior-exterior experience by providing a variety of ways to inhabit the spaces. In the main boarding space, the building design scales to the dog, the main user of the space. There are indoor-outdoor runs that penetrate an interior courtyard with wide 12' corridors that circulate the space. The undulation of this boarding space limits the dogs direct views of other dogs in the space, which helps enhance their sense of safety and security. Contrastingly, the 2nd floor acts as a private face of the building, connecting with the 1st floor through a central atrium. On the second floor , medical, quarantine, and short term boarding spaces provide services to the community for lost, sick or rehomed dogs. Together, this public-private, indoor-outdoor design nestles itself into the site and provides a safe, healthy, lively place for both the dogs and the community.

Footnotes 1 "Pets for Life Tools and Guides," HumanePro,



Animal, Dog, Shelter, Health, Connection