Whitehot Magazine

Noah Becker Talks to Architect Chuanjingwei Wang About Animal Care Facility Design

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By NOAH BECKER, September, 2018

Noah Becker: Where were you born and raised?

Wang: I was born and raised in Wuhan, China, which is a dynamic city. The humidity, history and ebullience of the city created a unique culture that shaped my design to some extent.

Becker: Tell me what a sustainable design approach means to you?

Wang: Sustainable design approach is to provide a solution to make buildings lasting longer and friendly to environment. As a specialized designer for animal care facilities, addressing sustainability and durability in design is the key to success of each project. One of RFA’s core value is to design sustainably and make every effort to be good environmental stewards. Our primary focus is on energy efficiency and water resource management for positive economic benefits, decreased operating expenses and return on investment. As for durability, shelter environments are hard on materials - robust construction in heavy-impact, high traffic and animal housing areas is a must. Over the years we have determined that utilizing simple, durable materials featuring natural weathering properties to minimize maintenance and upkeep offers our clients the best value.

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Becker: How do you collaborate as a designer?

Wang: As a designer, I collaborate by frequent communication with team members and giving many feedbacks to client. Knowing the tasks for each team member and the deadlines is the basis of collaboration, and I’m always ready to take over other’s work when something happens.

Becker: After joining the RFA team in 2016 what was your first project with them?

Wang: My first project is The Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The Animal Shelter for Humane Society of Tampa Bay Florida has over 42,000 square feet, spanning an entire city block as it winds around existing giant oak trees that predate all man-made structures. I have taken the responsibility of Site analysis and modeling using BIM technology. With complex calculation, I managed to propose efficient site planning to fit into the slope. I was also in charge of the design of the memorial garden and did several sketches/drawings and renderings.

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Becker: Does contemporary art influence your designs?

Wang: Contemporary art has considerably influenced my design. Its structural ambiguity, material collage, and geometrical hybrid are good references for architectural forms. Among contemporary artists, I have frequently looked at Ian McKeever and Yoshitoma Nara’s works.

Design visualization is also significant in architecture design. Thus I have followed some architects who influenced by graphic, such as OMMX and Fala Atelier. They use collage of materials and textures to brings together architecture, people’s activity, landscape and environment. Although rendering is the basis in architecture presentation, these kind of collages can demonstrate architects’ diagrammatic design process and the prospect of the project.

Becker: When you see a site for a design how do you visualize a project at the beginning?

Wang: I would first assume the activities that will take place in the proposed building and spaces. I would preview these activities in front of my eye, and use my heart to feel what kind of spaces are required to conduct and augment these activities. With bearing in mind the concern for public, I would also think if I’m a visitor to the city and what this building can bring to me as a gift or a place to rest. 

(RFA) Orange County Animal Care Facility 

(RFA) Orange County Animal Care Facility 

Becker: Are your clients usually agreeable to your designs?

Wang: Clients are usually agreeable to our designs. Different clients often have different design requirement and budget, I consider each project as a unique design to fit into project site, context, requirement and budget. In striving to build better communities for people and animals, RFA always propose shelters which are fun places to visit, educational places to learn and inspirational places to experience. They feature comfortable, welcoming spaces that are specifically tailored to foster animal health and welfare and promote life-long adoptions and community support. Residents take pride in the shelters we design and we have found that our facilities quickly become integral components of their communities.

(RFA) Milton Animal Shelter - Cat Play Room

Becker: What is the most technically challenging design you’ve worked on so far?

Wang: The most technically challenging design I’ve worked on is Humane Society of Tampa Bay. This project has three major challenges: There are a few large oak trees to preserve on site; The site has a slope from west to east, maximum drop down is around 10 feet; The client hope to build in phases so that the shelter will not close during construction. 

RFA and the client together proposed two largest oak trees to be preserved in the new building, and the site layout has been shaped from the territories of the two trees. The spaces defined by trees become perfect green area within the project’s scope. A well designed memorial garden will be located in one of the spaces which is open to staff, pet owners and volunteers. With a careful and sophisticated analysis of the topography, we separate the first floor into 5 levels connected with ramps. Through several rounds of schematic design, we finally managed to make full use of the spaces around the ramps. Second floor is also partially added for administrative spaces. Different functions are also grouped and organized carefully for phase construction.

(RFA) Orange County Animal Care Facility 

Becker: Did you know a lot about designing animal related buildings before working on that kind of project?

Wang: I didn’t know a lot about animal care facility design before I joined RFA. However, I have always kept in mind what makes good design of animal hospital and shelter is that designers need to have humanistic care and concern about lives. By setting the accommodation, habitat and activities of both animals and human, creating such friendly and sophisticated buildings becomes possible. Besides that, I also focus on organic forms that derives from animals and articulating interior and exterior spaces, which are found in most of RFA’s design works.

(RFA) Dog Rock Resort

Becker: Your expert BIM Modeling skills and rendering skills have helped you attain an important position. How do you work with it?

Wang: BIM is a very efficient tool in today’s architecture and engineering industry. RFA do almost every projects with BIM. In some of RFA’s projects, we collaborate with consultants and contractors using BIM, but not all projects. I would say by using BIM, we saved time in designing and drafting, and also problem detecting and solving. But as we know, it is a powerful tool and we may have better tools in the future, like VR. I think it’s very important for architects or even artists to continue gaining skills from emerging technologies.

Becker: What is your next design project?

Wang: The next project for me is the Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. There two project sites. First one is on Villers Street and is a renovation design, over 70,000 ft2. It is a renovation/expansion project on an existing 3-storey animal hospital. The other one will be a new building, over 20,000 ft2. WM


Noah Becker

Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023. 


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