Winner of a Commendation in the ‘Commercial Architecture’ category of the South Australian Institute of Architects Awards 2020. The Walkerville Vet balances commercial agenda with civic generosity. The clinic sits on 6 lanes of harsh arterial road, where traffic hostility forces bland frontages and garish signage. First engagement with the Walkerville Vet however, is public art designed at a scale to both address the pedestrian and to catch the eye of the speeding traffic.
Project Name: Walkerville Vet
Studio Name: Khab Architects
Location: Walkerville, Australia
Photography: Aaron Citti
A dynamic animal mural fills an expanse of brick wall flanking the entry walkway and 14 large yellow letters span the front boundary spelling the building’s name. There is tension on this threshold of arterial road and residential zone – the architecture balances a quiet, friendly scale with the bigness demanded by the road – it is a small building on a large scale.
With a wedge-shaped site falling 3.5 metres from front to back and a complex brief, the requirement for a single level building and car parking demanded a clever response. It was a client priority to achieve some parking at the front, so an obvious dilemma was how to retain street presence. In response, the new clinic stretches a dramatic ramped entry walkway up to the street, integrated with public art to form a memorable frontage.
Our client, the Vet and owner Andrew, was seeking an economical yet unique building that could operate and appear as a professional clinic, but also have the friendly nature of a suburban vet practice. The planning strategy achieves complex functions and workflows in a simple format while bringing warmth and tactility to the experience of staff, animals and animal owners.
The building is made of 3 different elements – a richly clad pod in the centre of a large light-filled open area, flanked by two residential scale wings that house separate functions. The pod subtly divides the large open area into front-of-house (Waiting, Reception) and back-of-house, setting up obvious, efficient circulation. ‘Back of house’ is the Treatment area, a hub of clinical activity occurring around a large custom designed treatment table, and lit by a large south window focused on the distant hills view. This atypical yet rational layout provides an efficient, uplifting and remarkably ‘non-clinical’ workplace.
Dogs dominate the patient list, so materials are robust and easily cleaned. A grassy patch outside the entry offers early smells and a spot to mark territory, protected from cars by a wall just higher than the sight line of an average sized dog. The clinic sits lower and distanced from the road, providing a calm retreat from the hectic energy of North East Road, helping appease anxious or unwell animals and their worried owners.
Khab worked closely with a team of engineers, artists, manufacturers of custom equipment, and ultimately with the commercial builder to deliver a building that successfully operates on this complex site. With careful response to program and context, the Walkerville Vet achieves civic and commercial priorities with a residential and personal feel. It is a high functioning clinical environment, an uplifting place to work in and visit, and a fascinating place to wizz past by car.