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Ar-cat-ecture for animals

Architects design community cat shelters for a cause

From Web Exclusives

"White Jack" by Abramson Teiger Architects: "The form allows the cat to climb through it like a habitat ... [it's] like a piece of interactive art where the cat becomes part of the art.""Ball of Twine" by Abramson Teiger Architects: "The Ball of Twine was a play on scale, as normally the cat is much larger than the twine ... In this design, there still is some free twine to play with and the cat is inside the ball."CallisonRTKL: "Most times when cats are placed in a new space they feel guarded and unsure of their surroundings; they look for a quiet nook to hide and feel secure. Our cat structure was inspired by the safe havens of a cathedral. Our modern interpretation showcases contemporary geometric patterns and stained-glass windows. A soft carpeted ramp from one end leads to a perch for cats to look out into their surroundings while still being sheltered."d3architecture: "[We] designed a cat shelter reflecting the environment and personalities of feral cats, using materials found on the streets and in the alleys (discarded HVAC equipment) creating a wild array of tunnels and passageways. But at the center is a tranquil space for these cats to shed their desperate lives.""Meow Miaow" by ES-EN-EM: "Both pragmatic and poetic, Meow-Miaow is an origami-inspired cat shelter made for indoor and outdoor use that provides a comforting, private and protective space for one or multiple cats. ... The shelter is assembled flat and folded into shape creating a rigid monocoque structure that is as much a piece of furniture as it is a home for cats."Flora-Gato by Formation Association, Terremoto Landscape and Arktura: "Flora-Gato is a biomorphic trellis providing shelter to cats and informal seating to human volunteers serving the feral cat population.    The trellis structure takes an organic form while also suggesting the function a pouf or an ottoman. ... [Spanish Moss] assists in both shading and evaporative cooling for cats seeking shelter in the den-like interior, while the densely spaced Korean Grass plugs act as a thermal mass.""CAnT WE ALL GET ALONG" by HKS: "Sunlight filters through the slats of my den, Birds chirping just beyond in their pen, I could lunge, I could expunge, Instead I will laze, within this fish-house in a daze, Can’t we all get along just today, Come back tomorrow for another foray!"HOK: "This seven-chambered kitty shelter is uniquely shaped and provides both protection from the elements as well as a cozy home for multiple kitties. ... The exterior [is] a warm faux wood finish that can handle any weather condition and the interior [is] of soft felt and other materials for comfort. A circular back door allows the kitties to enter to exit from both the front and back."Knowhow Shop: "In the year since the Cat Exploration Program was initiated with the successful launch of the Lunar Cat Lander (to much fanfare and general purrs of contentment), the terrain has changed drastically. The unfortunate ascension of a petulant marmalade tabby has resulted in drastic cuts to all programs based in science. Worse, his penchant for climate change skepticism and bellicose rhetoric toward neighborhood possums threatens to turn the whole world into a proverbial litterbox!""Cat’s Win! Cat’s Win!" by Kollin Altomare Architects: "Our active and stimulating "shelter" was influenced by studying the normal interior environments that domestic cats prefer: natural surfaces that give them the ability to exercise and practice their clawing techniques; random surfaces and heights that allow them to share spaces; and protection from the elements or unfriendly visitors.""UnFURled" by Perkins + Will: "UnFURled is cat architecture designed to balance adaptability and graphic form. Built as an interchangeable and interacting kit-of-parts, the structure is scalable, malleable and fun for you and your cat."RNL now Stantec: "The sculptural platform with soft faux fur offers different areas for rest and sleep. A single red thread weaves a combination of abstract triangular shapes into a shelter.""Catosphere" by Standard Architecture | Design: "The Catosphere is a concrete and wood pod ... fitted with a cat bed. The louvered wood walls can be open or closed depending on the weather.     The concrete's high thermal mass gathers heat during the day and slowly releases it overnight. The movable wood louvers may be opened to allow a breeze to flow though or closed during cooler weather.  Appealing to a cat's desire for warmth, [it] provides a secure shelter for a catnap."

If you were drawing a Venn diagram, you likely wouldn’t have “community cat shelter” and “iconic modernist design” overlap. Yet last October, the Herman Miller Showroom in Culver City, California—namesake of Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer credited with instantly recognizable designs like the Eames lounge chair—showcased cat shelters designed, built and donated by local architects and designers.

The imaginative (and functional) designs are a product of Architects for Animals’ annual “Giving Shelter” event benefiting FixNation, an L.A.-based nonprofit that provides free spay/neuter services for the city's free-roaming felines. In other major cities, annual Architects for Animals events benefit D.C.'s Humane Rescue Alliance and the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, with past designs incorporating fish bowls and insulated cat food cans.

"We bring in some of the largest architecture firms, and they donate their time and talent, and they actually design and build a small winter shelter for an animal that's found itself living on the streets," Architects for Animals founder Leslie Farrell told All For Animals TV. "They're very cool, they're architectural, but we also wanted to raise awareness for people in the city and elsewhere that these animals exist and they need help."

With titles fit for The Louvre, like “White Jack,” “CAnT WE ALL GET ALONG” and “Ball of Twine,” click through to see the most recent works of art and to read a few words from the designers.

About the Author

Bethany Wynn Adams is an editor at Animal Sheltering, a quarterly magazine for anyone who cares about the health and happiness of animals and their people, and animalsheltering.org. From tales of shelter mascots to guidance on backyard chickens, Bethany works with experts from across the country and within The Humane Society of the United States to bring wide-ranging, engaging print and web news to the animal welfare community. Winner of the Cat Writers' Association's MUSE Medallion, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two naughty rescue dogs.