As much as we claim to love our feline friends, our architectural skills are most often devoted to luxury dog cottages and not, much to kitty’s chagrin, multi-story cat houses. Why the skewed devotion to “man’s best friend”? Perhaps it’s because kitty would rather play in a cardboard box? But whatever the reason, non-profit organization, Architects for Animals is seeking to rectify it!
In late 2014, a project run by the non-profit organization asked fourteen of the top U.S. architectural firms to design cat houses that wow. Architects for Animals, a charity that focuses on providing better shelter for pets while raising animal awareness, gave each company three months to complete their designs and each company was to complete the project pro bono.
After each of the 14 submissions were complete, they were put on display for all to see during a one-night cat themed design event. The event “Giving Shelter”, designed to raise money for the free spay and neuter program, FixNation, took place on September 10, 2014, and was hosted in the Herman Miller showroom in Culver City. All proceeds from tickets sold for the event went towards FixNation’s efforts to control pet overpopulation through their humane trap and release program.
So, just what did the architects participating in the event come up with?
Abramson Teiger Architects
Abramson Teiger Architects came up with a rather basic, yet multifunctional housing unit. The house, which cost only $20 to build, provides plenty of space for sunning – which can be fitted with a soft bed for comfort, and a closed den to protect against predation and the elements at night. This quite simple unit proved to be one of the more practical outdoor housing solutions generated by the contest!
Abramson Teiger truly made the project a family affair, taking his wife’s suggestion to build a cat house that complimented their own home. Using leftover siding from building their home as well as a plastic bin, the project became something of a mini extension of the Teiger home! Abramson Teiger’s 11-year-old son even helped to build the kitty condo, designed to suit the two outdoor cats they previously adopted.
D3 Architecture came up with a cat tree format for their shelter, and while it’s brightly colored and repurposes materials, it falls somewhat short of the contest’s main concept. Still, there is no doubt that this vibrant structure will provide plenty of sunning time for some very lucky cats!
The D3 Architecture group tackled their project by seeking out shipping pallets in the back alleys of local businesses. These repurposed pallets were then arranged to create a number of platforms and perches and brightly painted to add a little flair.
DSH Architecture used a series of metal hoops interwoven with rayon webbing to create a unique structure for the curious cat. Much like D3 Architecture, DSH somewhat missed the aim of the assignment and failed to create a shelter, but they succeeded in creating a multifunctional platform. While cats can lay across the webbing platform, they can also bat at the rayon webbing to amuse themselves while sunning.
DSH Architecture built their structure with California cats in mind, the breezy open design incorporating many of the outdoor living trends of the state. A nod to the stereotypical cat that loves string, the design is not only functional but beautiful too. The five-hooped structure creates a series of orbits that, strung with rayon webbing, provide shade, comfort, and an opportunity for play for the curious cat.
Formation Association/Edgar Arceneaux
Formation Association/Edgar Arceneaux seemed to put a good deal of thought into the functionality of their shelter. The ribbed wooden shelter not only provides partial shelter from the elements, but it also provides hard to access points to protect cats from predation. The structure could certainly use a little more insulation for those colder areas of the country, but for areas where it’s warm year-round, or for a cat owner looking for an entryway bench, this shelter does the trick!
The Formation Association Feral Cat Shelter not only considered the safety of feral cats but also the comfort of workers in the feral cat community. The ribbed wooden structure with narrowing spaces within for the safety of wild cats, doubles as a bench! Although the group acknowledges that the two populations may never use the structure at the same time due to the skittishness of feral cats, the multifunctional use of the structure certainly makes it more appealing.
Hok came up with an entire house for cats when bringing their concept to life. The structure provides individual shelter “rooms” for cats which protect from the elements, and the outer “grassy area” provides a space for play. Although perhaps more suited for a domestic cat, Hok’s concept still manages to meet the shelter requirement of the contest and provide added stimulation.
The aim of the HOK team when designing their structure was to recreate the clean design elements seen in modernist European architecture. There is no doubt that they achieved this and the nod to the quintessential pentagonal profile only adds an element of charm. The shape of the structure was incorporated for more than charm, however, as it also allows for the condo units to be flat-packed. This IKEA approach to kitty furniture along with the minimalist materials used make this an affordable and easily accessible product for rescue communities.
Lehrer Architects named their project “ConCATenate”, a nod to the concept of the structure linking together linear design elements and ramps. Multiple sections of artificial turf are built into the sheet metal structure and various ramps create something of a playground. Like some of the other architects on the project, however, Lehrer seemed to fail in providing much shelter or protection from the elements even though the structure itself is quite impressive.
Lehrer Architects designed their structure with the true nature of cat’s in mind. The escalating ramps provide the opportunity to climb as well as elevation for a sense of security. At the same time, the unique angular design creates an aesthetically pleasing structure for passersby who may likely see it as no more than a work of art.
NAC Architecture focused their project on the idea of providing shelter while also being environmentally conscious. Their brightly colored three-cylinder design features vivid blue, orange, and beige tiles on the exterior and cozy carpet on the interior. Despite lacking an enclosed space, the NAC Architecture structure did incorporate variety with their multi-sized cylinders to accommodate cats of all sizes.
NAC Architecture named their design “Rubber Fishy” and built the structure to focus on the feral cat community more than extravagance of design. Each of the three cat house tubes, built with rubber base samples, carpet tiles, and plywood pieces, exemplifies the practice of upcycling – repurposing products that would otherwise be thrown away. This is a concept not too unfamiliar to the rescue community, who regularly rescue stray cats who have been discarded as “trash” and put them to better “use” as family companions.
Perkins + Will
Perkins + Will constructed their cat house out of triangular fabric pieces sewn together to create a cat tunnel. Openings at the bottom, middle, and top provide space for sunning and escape from any predators that might sneak in. Although the structure certainly meets the necessity for shelter, the question remains over whether the fabric panels and stitching are capable of holding up to the elements.
The unique color scheme and shape of the Perkins + Will cat house structure provides plenty of entertainment for the curious cat, but also makes it a true work of art. The tall angular structure, which seemingly belongs on exhibit in a gallery, may not be ideal for an outdoor climate, but it’s still quite a sight to behold!
Pfeiffer Partners Architects
Pfeiffer Partners Architects focused their shelter project on reusing materials that they had on hand, while also making the structure sturdy but lightweight and easy to move. The five tunnels inside are all carpeted and provide shelter, while the various widths accommodate cats of all sizes. Unfortunately, once again, there is no enclosure to provide warmth and full protection from the elements, but there is still a good deal of shelter.
Pfeiffer Partners Architects project, named “HABICAT”, was built using affordable construction materials so that reproducing the structure would be cost effective and easy. The unit may not be the most architecturally thrilling of all of the submission, but the ease with which it can be reproduced is certainly appealing.
RNL’s Kitty Condo is quite visually appealing with its combination of “grass covered” platforms and secure hiding places tucked inside. The wooden slats provide ventilation while the platforms provide overhead protection from the elements. Does it lack a truly secure and warm location? Probably, but it’s considerably closer to the point than some of the other contest entries!
RNL built their Kitty Condo with the dual nature of the cat in mind, aiming for architectural beauty and functionality. Each of the turf covered platforms offers a high vantage point from which to survey the “lay of the land” while stretching out in the sun. Conversely, the 23 layers of wooden slats create dark secreted spots within the structure to indulge the sometimes-shy nature of the feral cat.
RTKL took the unique approach of using the typographic sculpture as inspiration for their cat house. The various spaces between and within the letters provide plenty of hiding spots for cats of all sizes. The containing box ensures protection from the rain and the carpeting within the letters offers something to grip once inside. Although something of an open structure that will certainly lack warmth for stray kitties, this cat house does offer plenty of space for shy and outgoing cats alike.
RTKL’s cat house, named “The Cat’s Meow”, uses laser-cut wood panels, plywood, and carpet tile to create a modern work of art. The group even incorporated food and water bowls on the exterior of the structure to build more functionality into the piece.
Space Intl came up with a futuristic Cat Chalet design that doubles as a seat for the human population. The interior of the house is lined with “grass” that provides an appealing hiding place for skittish strays. The string-like additions on the exterior “walls” of the house provide visual appeal as well as play potential for the cats inside. While an enclosed space is lacking in this structure, the plush-lined interior likely provides quite a bit of additional warmth.
Space Intl’s submission a piece designed to replicate the elements of the gable roof found in the housebuilding community. The unique visual design certainly sets the Space Intl piece apart from the rest and the dual functionality of the piece is certainly an added bonus. Space Intl built this piece using recycled carpet pieces and sisal rope among other materials and managed to create something of a jungle ruins meets modern architecture amalgamation.
Standard Architecture Design
Standard Architecture Design went with a more basic construction for their cat house. A concrete block with thick wooden planks for perch support, this house offers three sides of insulation against the elements. Although quite small and likely only appealing to the more social of cats, this structure certainly kept in mind the need for an enclosed space to maintain and promote warmth.
Standard Architecture Design built their structure using reclaimed materials, making the project affordable to reproduce. Plus, while many of the other project entrants focused their efforts on architectural appeal for human enjoyment, Standard Architecture Design, focused instead on the basic need of stray cats to maintain body heat in cooler temperatures.
This front view of the cat house designed by Standard Architecture Design exhibits the fully protected front façade of the shelter which keeps cats safe from predation and from the elements. The small entrance limits heat loss during colder temperatures but provides just enough space for a stray kitty to slip inside. Additionally, the feet on the bottom of the unit ensure that once inside, cats are not simply sleeping on a surface which channels colder ground temperatures inside the house.
Standard Architecture Design chose to utilize concrete in their piece because it absorbs heat during the daytime. This heat slowly gets released as temperatures start to drop and creates a warm sleeping environment within the house even when nights start to grow cold.
Wolcott Architecture Interiors
Wolcott Architecture Interiors went for a combination of color, carpet, tunnels, and cubbies. This unique shelter provides various sizes of cubbies in which cats can snuggle up, as well as plenty of space to perch and sun. Although visually appealing in structure and color, this structure offers little in terms of protection or warmth and would be better suited to the home of an eccentric cat lover.
Wolcott Architecture Interiors named their cat house “Kitty La Tourelle” since it was inspired by the architect and artist Rodney La Tourelle. The structure itself is built with the idea of play and rest in mind and makes a fabulous art exhibit with or without cats with its sharp angles and bright coloration.