Acrylic block walls in this Portland, Ore., cat hospital allow daylight to filter into the three exam rooms while still creating private spaces for feline patients.
While Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, has operated a successful cat hospital in Chico, Calif., for a number of years, a while back she decided to open a second feline clinic, this time in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Ore.
The location was ideal, but the old 5,000-sf building the veterinarian landed for her practice was anything but. The facility was dark and dated, and transforming it into a bright and contemporary space would require creative thinking on the part of the design/build firm Hollis Elliott Construction.
The reception desk is also constructed from acrylic block.
Knowing that finicky feline patients are calmer and more relaxed in private spaces that are sunny and cozy, the project team's primary concern was finding ways to close up parts of the building for privacy without blocking light from the building's front windows—this being the Pacific Northwest, natural light is in short supply. Firm owner Hollis Elliott drafted a plan with three private exam rooms that allowed light to filter in through curved glass walls—a design suggestive of giant fish bowls.
Creating those glass walls on a budget ruled out using glass block, which would have required on-site mason work to install the individually mortared glass blocks. Instead, Elliott used prefabricated acrylic block walls and specified 86-inch-high units with a 90-degree radius fitted with six-inch, clear wave blocks from Hy-Lite Products of Greensboro, Ga.
Acrylic block was also used to construct the reception desk, which is located in front of one of the clinic's two windows and which could have blocked a lot of sunlight. "We were especially concerned about light getting trapped behind the reception desk," said Elliott. "With the acrylic block, the light flows through the desk and into and throughout the building structure." A few skylights were also added during the renovation to offset what Elliott called a "tunnel effect" of vertical light.
Hollis Elliott's design has proved ideal for Dr. Colleran to tend to all nine of her patients' lives. "Both my patients and their human owners seem extremely comfortable in this bright, carefree setting," she says.