Rural studio brings animal shelter to Hale County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The reputation of Rural Studio is not unknown to the people of Greensboro. The program, an extension of the Auburn University Architecture department, has been a presence in Hale County since the early 1990s. In that time they have done the unthinkable: built livable homes with a budget of $20 thousand and used material ranging from carpet tiles to corrugated cardboard.

On Aug. 25, they unveiled their most recent project, undertaken by four students: Jeffrey Bazzell, Julieta Collart, Connely Farr and Lana Farkus. The foursome began working on their thesis, or senior project, in 2005. One year and three months after their official graduation from Auburn University, the four students finally had the grand opening of the Hale County Animal Shelter.

Andrew Freear, associate professor of architecture and the director of the rural studio based in Newbern, said the project first came up about two years ago, when Hale County Probate Judge Leland Avery approached him with the idea.

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Former County Commissioner Walter Allen said the project became an imminent concern when the state enacted a law that each county must have an animal shelter and a dog catcher. Allen continued to become involved in the project and also spoke on behalf of the citizens of Greensboro at the opening.

What the students lacked in experience of course, they more than compensated for in intuition and determination. Not only were the students required to build the facility, but also they took on the initial phases of research and coming up with a design for the building. As part of their research, they visited other shelters to see what worked and what didn&8217;t. They also adapted each part of their project to the specific needs of the Greensboro community.

The most striking part about the facility, which sits directly in front of the Hale County Detention Center, is its massive size and unusual shape. The roof design is known as a lamella, which is a structure supported by a network of interlocking wooden beams, covered by industrial aluminum.

There are only a few similar structures in the world, some in Mississippi, and one of the only published manuals on the structure is from an obscure Indian architect from the 1920s.

When Joe Faruggia, an architect from Chicago who was a consultant on the project, first heard the students were going to undertake the construction of a lamella, a quick survey among his colleagues found that none of them had ever been involved in one being built.

Regardless of these odds, the four students were not only able to construct one, but were able to add unique features meant to enhance the buildings purpose.

The large lamella structure is also raised from the ground, so natural airflow can permeate the structure and provide ventilation. Inside of the lamella there are a series of pods to house both cats and dogs. The facility is also constructed so the public can come in and few animals when no one is available to work the shelter, but all of the animals are completely safe.

Other features include heated flooring meant for keeping the animals warm and also a large skylight in the roof to regulate light in the structure. Each of these features came out of research performed by the students.

Another important part of the opening of the Hale County Animal Shelter is the formation of the Hale County Humane Society, which is being headed up by Charlie Burke, Betsy Rogers and many others.

Now, the Humane Society is in the beginning stages of staffing the facility and putting it to use.