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Architects Design Homes for NYCís Stray Cats

December 27, 2011

By Carolina Worrell
This article first appeared in ENR New York

safe shelters for New York City’s stray cats
Photo by Dana Edelson

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Area architects may not have had to claw their way in but they recently put their design and engineering skills to the test on an animal-rescue mission to design warm, weatherproof, portable and safe shelters for New York City’s stray cats. The designers volunteered their time and resources to design and build the shelters for the second annual Architects for Animals competition, part of the non-profit Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals.

There are more than 10,000 stray cats in New York City, says Co Adaptive Architecture, a Brooklyn-based design firm that supports socially and environmentally beneficial work for non-profit organizations.

Co Adaptive teamed with architect Kathryn Walton, founder of the non-profit The American Street Cat, Inc., to win this year’s competition with a shelter that includes a data-monitoring device. The shelter, which is constructed of recycled and donated materials, is equipped with a pressure sensor, LED light, and a radio transmitter that lights up when occupied and sends information to a base station that posts the weight of the cat and the duration of its stay on the web in real time.

“Since one base station can support hundreds of shelters within a one-mile radius, multiple shelters located within multiple cat colonies can provide useful data for caretakers and certified trap-neuter-return (TNR) workers,” Co Adaptive says. The firm hopes that the shelter will ultimately be used “to expedite efforts to minimize the overpopulation problem.”

Walton, who participated in last year’s exhibit to help promote her organization, has been working in the architecture and construction industries since the mid-‘90s. Since her and Co Adaptive’s winning entry contains electronics that require monitoring, it needed to be in a secure location, Walton says. The Mayor’s Alliance helped to find a safe place, and a pair of local caretakers received both this year’s winning high-tech shelter and a shelter that Walton created last year, she says.

All of the competition entries were initially on display in Midtown Manhattan earlier this month and are now in use by rescue groups across the city, says Leslie Farrell, an architectural firm marketing director, who founded the Architects for Animals initiative. Farrell, who contacted architectural firms to participate in this year’s event, says the initiative helps raise funds for the Mayor’s Alliance and its feral cat initiative.

Designers from some of New York’s major design firms donated their shelters to certified feral-cat caretakers for placement in strategic locations throughout the city, Farrell says. These firms are FXFOWLE; H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; RMJM; and Gage Clemenceau; as well as individual architects who formed Team Anemoi.

Another cat-rescue group, CSM Stray Foundation, Kew Gardens, Queens, received the H3 shelter designed by Frank Lindemann and called, “The Brown Tubes.” CSM was selected by a raffle drawing because of its involvement in TNR and the city’s feral cat initiative.

“This H3 Brown Tubes cat home is the ‘Waldorf Astoria’ of feral cat shelters,” CSM says. “The moment we placed the shelter in one of our colonies, the cats immediately became curious and went inside. This donation came at the perfect time, just before the cold weather,” it adds.

Farrell hopes to continue to grow the event and plans on launching the contest again next year, most likely in November or December, she says.

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