Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
Los Angeles’ top architects designed playful shelters to raise money for the city’s stray cat population.
A set of wooden planes lined with grass and threaded with enticing red strings. A lightweight, portable hideout in the shape of a colorful, 3D-printed cone. And a fishbowl cocoon perfect for napping. They’re architecture fit for a
To raise money for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit FixNation, which provides spay and neutering services for homeless cats, some of the city’s top architectural firms showcased their best ideas for luxurious cat shelters. There are 12 shelters in total, all of which were put on display earlier this month at a sold-out fundraising event hosted by the Architects for Animals initiative. From a kitty playground to a napping pod modeled after a lunar spaceship (and equipped with built-in feeding bowls and astro-mice toys), they’re intriguing for both cats and humans.
But they’re not just notable for their whimsical designs. The shelters follow a fundamental principle in architecture: that form should follow function. For example, the “Catcube” was designed by Standard Architecture to keep cats at a comfortable temperature. The concrete gathers heat during the day to keep the animals warm at night, and its movable wooden flaps allow breeze to flow through.
Leslie Farrell, who heads Architects for Animals, says she gave the firms loose guidelines: it should be portable, can hold up to two or three cats, and it should be playful. “I want them to use their creativity because part of this is to raise awareness,” she tells CityLab. “When you ask the architectural community—these very cool, talented people—it helps change the perception of these suffering animals. If this group is willing to help, then [people] will think, ‘Oh, I can help, too.’“
(She adds that the event was so popular that the tabby who modeled all the photos recently got adopted.)
Architects for Animals raises money for shelters and nonprofits across the country. And feral cat populations are a big problem for many cities. L.A. is home to somewhere between 1 and 3 million stray cats. Locals have employed the “meaner” ones to catch rodents and turned others into companions for coffee seekers.
The innovative shelters from Architects for Animals’ latest effort may not be enough for all of the city’s cats, but a lucky few might get to enjoy them, as some are expected to be up for auction soon.