Office AIO takes a stand on humane spaces for pets

With pet ownership on the rise, how can we holistically address animal welfare? When Office AIO was approached by the pet shop Paw, the team rethought how a commercial shop can use spatial design to speak about care for our little companions.

Situated in a regeneration development of a residential area in Beijing, Paw adopts a corner of an existing single-storey building facing the street. Office AIO transforms a previous management office to a retail shop that sells, grooms and accommodates pets, from a quick check to a temporary "hotel" stay.

A Humane Shop: Pets as Real Customer

To Office AIO, a pet shop should not be a place of merely livestock exchange. It is a place where the animals, who have their own comfort preferences, live. While industry standards tend to place pets on the facade behind glass, they are prone to attract innocent disturbance from passersby. Steering away from this common practice, Office AIO strategically rests the pets away from the external facade and inside full-height multi-level glass volumes. It shields them from unnecessary gazes with electromagnetic glass and treats the animals as the "real" customers of the shop, not the curious humans.

The design connects to peaceful nature throughout the space to maximise comfort. The ceiling is tiled with shredded wood panels that organically texturise the place while absorbing sounds. It capitalised on the single-floor site, opening up the top with skylights to bring in more natural light. Earthy crazy-paved slate flooring adds outdoorsyness to the interior.

A muted palette is chosen to help the cats and dogs, who can only see limited colors, distinguish between outside world and Paw as a distinctive destination. Blue terrazzo floor is chosen to mark the main program in the shop. For display, hotel and spa areas, beige Corian is used for ease of maintenance. Table and counters made of timber add a warm touch to the communal areas.

Rework Circulation to Mitigate Antagonism

Despite a small footprint, the team attentively draws out circulation for dogs and cats respectively, mitigating antagonism that can arise between the species. Each species gets its territory in the shop, including a different entrance, reception and grooming stands. The two respective zones have check-in counters on each end of an L-shaped cantilevered table, designating different greeting areas at the front without compromising efficiency for the staff behind.

The puppies take the south entrance, while the kitties take the east. Pet owners of different species enter through separate doors, avoiding confrontation between the animals and crowding on the passage. A further delineation is layered vertically, allocating cats' special play zone in the air by a floating piece of acrylic over the check-in counter. To the back of the shop, an array of "hotel rooms" sport with pet-friendly features sits away from most traffic, providing the pets a more private environment during their temporary stays.

In the effort to conceive a space not only for the business of pet retail, Office AIO takes an emphatic stand in humane design with a subdued appearance, reflecting the studio's thoughtful use of its expertise, away from treating pets as inferior companions, advancing the well-being of all members in our ecosystem.

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