London’s Stylish New Animal Hospital Is Man’s—and Pets’—Best Friend

The city’s first 24-hour veterinary clinic, designed by local firm Alma-nac, accommodates the requirements of pets in need, as well as their owners.
London Animal Hospital Design

Courtesy Jack Hobhouse

London’s new animal hospital, located in the neighborhood of Camberwell, inadvertently makes manifest one of the fiercest rivalries known to the animal kingdom. “Cats only please,” threatens one laminated sign, stuck onto a plywood bench. “Dogs and friends” retorts the another. It’s a turf war that only the indoctrinated can truly understand. At a human level, however, it’s all very lovely.

The London Animal Hospital is the first 24-hour facility for veterinary services in the city and, thanks to architecture and interior design work by Alma-nac, probably the trendiest. The building is essentially a large shed and formerly housed a print works, later the headquarters of the scandal-ridden charity, Kids Company—a progression of uses that neatly illustrates the evolution of the gentrifying neighborhood over the last few decades.

London Animal Hospital Design

Courtesy Jack Hobhouse

The length of the structure is divided into thirds: the first for the public and reception; the second, the animal treatment area; the third, a generous staff area complete with kitchen and sleeping area for overnight staff. Inside, iron beams and battens are left exposed, albeit triple-glazed to reduce the noise of barking for neighbors. Alma-nac’s alterations to the structure are marked by plywood; interior walls are stained an Atlantic blue while doorways and custom furniture are left without a finish.

The furniture elements are a subtle stand-out to the project, revealing Alma-nac’s attention to the different scales of species that will be using the building. Two huddles of benches in the reception area, where the aforementioned turf-warriors are divided in anticipation of an appointment, are designed with pet preferences in mind: The feline furniture has an armrest against which cat-boxes can be secured, while the seats of the canine cluster are kept open. Similarly, the cat consulting room comes with a box-like playground to be explored by nervous patients.

Details such as these are designed to create an environment based on the Fear Free pet care doctrine, maintained by the separation of cats and dogs via discrete circulation routes. (The hospital looks after all animals, but primarily cats and dogs.) The clinic’s simple footprint (or “pawprint,” if you will) means all activities take place on one floor and that pets can be moved quickly and calmly from the operating rooms to their high-spec kennels. Here, steel bars are out; perforated glass doors are in.

“We wanted to create a relaxing and welcoming environment for the staff, owners and pets so we used material and color palettes which are not usually associated with medical institutions,” explains Chris Bryant, director at Alma-nac.

London Animal Hospital Design

Courtesy Jack Hobhouse

There are also thoughtful touches for pet owners. One consulting room off the reception area doubles as a quiet, comfy space for final goodbyes and has access to an exit that bypasses the public waiting area. “We looked after every detail down to furniture and workstations to help create this sense of calm,” says Bryant. “It’s often a stressful time for the owners so we used tactics we often use in housing in terms of light, material and comfort to create a more familiar space.”

The costs of high-quality medical equipment and the refurb of the pre-existing structure clearly absorbed a large portion of the project’s budget, meaning some interior details are a little slipshod—skirting is inconsistent, a few doors miss handles, leaky air-conditioning has left some light fittings out of action. Nonetheless, the London Animal Hospital advances the veterinary typology with a space that is comfortably stylish and sensitive to different spatial—and species’—needs.

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Categories: Architecture, Healthcare Architecture