Waves and wags


Built in the 1960s, Pacific Animal Hospital in Oceanside, Calif., gets a surfer-inspired makeover while paying homage to its surroundings.

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The 1960s birthed many trends, not least among them the surfing craze made famous by such movies as Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo and songs by the Beach Boys and Dick Dale and the Deltones. On the West Coast, evidence of the surfer craze lingers. But for Pacific Animal Hospital, built in 1966 in Oceanside, Calif., it was time to jump forward a few decades in design while keeping the feel of the ocean alive and flowing through the practice.

A husband-and-wife team, Drs. Edward Attix and Valerie Caskey, dove into the process of building their updated facility, which would better reflect the care they provide while incorporating modern technology and conveniences. Remodeling or adding on to the practice wasn’t an option given the site they were on, so they chose to build anew—within mere feet of the old facility.

With an abundance of beach-inspired décor and a smart use of space, Pacific Animal Hospital caught the eyes of this year’s Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition judges—and the clinic landed a Merit Award for design excellence.


The small lot that housed the 44-year-old facility of 1,500 square feet became an island of sorts throughout the 12 months of building the all-new-and-improved 6,710-square-foot practice. Using every available bit of land, the doctors built to the maximum buildable area based on city zoning and parking requirements. This left little room to navigate during construction, putting the two facilities within feet of each other for a while.

Using a phased construction plan, the ground next to the old facility was torn down around it, lowering the site several feet to make room for the new building. For nearly a year the practice survived with no parking lot and was surrounded by construction trucks. “Clients had to carry pets past pumps and gigantic trucks and bulldozers just to get into the building,” says Dr. Attix. “It was very challenging, to say the least.”

To help clients survive the mess, the doctors hired an employee whose sole job was to help park cars, escort people and their pets into the building, and help them back to their cars after appointments. Receptionists told clients to call the office on their cell phones when they arrived, and the team member met them outside.

“We didn’t lose any clients during this tough time, thankfully,” Dr. Caskey says. However, some clients did delay routine care for their pets until all of the chaos subsided. “We just called those clients once we finally opened the new building, and they returned,” she says.

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Amidst all the chaos outside, some serious organizing was taking place indoors. With limited space on which to build, Drs. Attix and Caskey sought creative ways to arrange the hospital, making use of every square inch. For example, the doctors opted for one-door exam rooms. “Hallways are a complete waste of space and money,” says Dr. Attix. “Eliminating the hallway needed for two-door exam rooms gave us an additional two exam rooms, as well as more wall space and windows.”

A pod design for the exam rooms also minimizes hallways, giving more room for cabinets and other storage in the hospital. The six exam rooms sit directly behind the reception area, just in front of the glass-walled doctors’ office—one of the owners’ favorite features.

“The glass office is very useful for typing up records while keeping an eye on the entire treatment room, surgery, pharmacy, and radiology,” Dr. Caskey says. “The glass allows us to oversee everything without the distraction of all of the noise. We even have a radiograph viewing station in there.”


A new practice brought many technological advances, like computerized medical records, an electronic whiteboard, electronic surveillance, and digital radiography review stations; an increase in overall square footage; and comfort in style. Harking back to the 1960s surfer theme that first inspired Pacific Animal Hospital, the doctors chose to bring the ocean indoors in a variety of ways. The Oceanside Pier—a favorite tourist attraction and surfer location near the hospital—inspired the doctors to incorporate surfing and pier metaphors into the architecture of their hospital.

For example, repetitive vertical elements mixed with glass curtain walls resemble the pier columns floating in the waves off shore. Natural wood-plank ceilings mixed with cream and blue colors provide a casual beachlike feel. And wave ceiling panels resemble ocean waves while providing sound attenuation.

Staff members can even relax on break and feel like they’re on the beach—if only for a few moments—while sitting on the second-floor outdoor patio adjacent to the employee break room. “We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and casual in this space,” says Dr. Caskey. “Our employees deserve a place to relax.”

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Pacific Animal Hospital

2801 Oceanside Blvd.

Oceanside, CA


Owners: Drs. Edward Attix, Valerie Caskey

Associates: 3 full time

Hospital team: 12 full time, 3 part time

Practice type: Small animal

Building size: 6,710 square feet

Exam rooms: 6

Runs: 3 hospital indoor, 8 boarding indoor

Cages: 45

Parking spaces: 10 client, 7 staff

Construction: $1.55 million (building only; excludes land purchase, landscaping, parking lot, etc.)

Land purchase: $450,000

Site improvement: $300,000

Professional fees: $290,000

Equipment: $210,000

Furnishings: $6,000

Computers: $32,000

Year built: 2010


Richard Rauh

Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates

23101 Moulton Parkway, Suite 106

Laguna Hills, CA 92653

(949) 716-8899


For more photos from Pacific Animal Hospital, click the 'Next' button below.

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Surf's up: The casual beach style carries into the reception area, with such elements as lantern-style reception stations, an acoustical wave suspended from the ceiling, sandy tan and blue accents, and a vast view of the outdoors.

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Exam room

Smart design: The six exam rooms are arranged in a pod for convenient access from the lobby. The one-door exam rooms maximize space, and several of the rooms enjoy window views. Wall-mounted screens allow for digital radiography review in the exam rooms.

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Convenient counters: Three built-in workstations are incorporated into a curvilinear peninsula station behind the doctors’ office. This room offers a direct view into surgery through 8-foot-tall storefront glass.

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Employee break room

A place to kick back: The second-floor employee break room offers a comfortable place for staff members to get away from it all. For those warm California days, an outdoor patio with a table and umbrella gives team members respite from the busy-ness indoors.

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Click floor plan to enlarge

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