MSU students craft future animal shelter design

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Through a week-long project, Mississippi State University Landscape Architecture students created a design concept to inspire the upcoming Starkville Animal Shelter renovation and expansion.

The 25 landscape architecture students presented their individual designs Friday on MSU’s campus.

“We’re kind of getting started with this idea of a master plan for our space,” OCHS Director of Development and Community Relations Martha Thomas said of Starkville Animal Shelter. “At some point, our existing space is not going to work for us, and that’s why we’re going through this exercise — to explore and plan ahead.”

The idea to get the MSU students involved with the shelter design started with a local landscape architect, Wayne Wilkerson, who approached OCHS Board Member David VanLandingham about the idea.

“He knew we were thinking about renovating — slash adding onto — the existing shelter,” VanLandingham said.

After discussing the idea with VanLandingham, Wilkerson contacted MSU Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Cory Gallo to see if one of his classes could take on a design challenge. When Gallo welcomed the idea, Wilkerson and VanLandingham met with Gallo's Design 3 landscape architecture class last Monday to tell the students the shelter’s needs.

“And four days later, there’s a lot of work that’s been done by 25 students to show us some of the many possibilities,” VanLandingham said.

Although the week-long project was just a warmup for an upcoming semester-long project, the real-world application raised the stakes for the Design 3 students.

“For their education, it’s a design problem they have to solve,” Gallo said. “However, their client, obviously, is the Humane Society.”

“They get a client that comes and shows up and who’s interested and cares about it,” Gallo explained. “It puts a lot more pressure on them— you see some of them dressed up today.”

“Real client, real problem,” MSU Landscape and Architecture Department head Sadik Artunc added.

Gallo thinks giving students a client helps them take any project more seriously.

“Having a client is always a good thing for student work,” Gallo said.“They wanted to make sure they did something which was appreciated.”

Although no single idea will likely be implemented into the final shelter design plans, the project was meant to help and inspire OCHS members.

“(OCHS) is also such a great organization that is looking to improve their site in the future and they need some ideas,” Gallo said.

“We wanted creative ideas so that the friends of the Humane Society get inspired,” Artunc added.

And by the end of their presentations, the landscape architecture students were successful in inspiring OCHS members.

“This has been wonderful,” VanLandingham said. “I mean there are some really unique ideas that are really going to help us — not only unique but practical.”

“To have 25 different ideas about where we could go with our space— it’s really inspiring, and we’re coming away with so many ideas,” Thomas echoed.

Although OCHS’s plans for the shelter’s update are currently fluid, and at least five years down the road, OCHS does plan on moving forward with ideas they saw Friday.

“Moving forward, I think we are going to continue to work with Cory Gallo and the faculty here with Landscape Architecture to try to delve more into detail with regards to what our shelter may look like in the future,” Thomas said.

Gallo agreed to create a pro-bono final design for OCHS.

“I’ll meet with them and revisit the project and look into the things they liked from this and see if we can incorporate that into a single site masterplan that they all agree with,” Gallo said. “And then they can raise funds to try to implement that (plan).”

OCHS General Manager Christy Wells said, overall, she thinks the partnership with MSU Landscape and Architecture is a great opportunity for OCHS.

“I think this was a really great opportunity. We kind of had an idea of what we were thinking about when we get ready to expand, but this gave us so many other things to think about— other concepts on how we could design our building to make it more functional,” Wells said. “I think this is going to be a good asset to have.”