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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Architecture students combat campus cat housing crisis

Architecture students will begin to build cat structures to provide housing for the cats that were left homeless after the demolition of Phelps, Irby and Patterson Residence Halls. (Alexia Narun)

In July, Tulane University’s Phelps and Irby Residence Halls were demolished to make way for new dormitories. However, the new buildings are a devastating loss to the countless campus cats that called the space beneath the old ones home. 

Tulane now faces a cat housing crisis. 

Student organizations Campus Cats and Tulane Women in Architecture teamed up to address the cat housing shortage by holding a competition for students to design cat structures that will be built and implemented this spring. 

“We were seeing cats that normally we would never see because they were always hiding under [Phelps and Irby],” vice president of Campus Cats Renée Callari said.

Co-chair of TWIA Kayleigh Mcumber observed a similar issue as a resident advisor in Wall Residence Hall. 

“I’ve noticed that if [the cats] do have shelters, they’re very poorly maintained or not durable for weather,” Mcumber said. 

On Dec. 2, there will be an architecture design workshop called a charrette. At the charrette, student teams will be given a design brief with details on the locations and cats that the structures should be tailored to. 

The brief also includes the cats’ characteristics, which teams will take into consideration. 

“[Some cats want] something more private, more secluded, versus the cats that are in front of Sharp Hall. They like to be pet and to be seen,” Callari said. “It’s kind of based off of the cats’ personalities.”

Callari also said the designs should be permanent and weather conscious, with the goal that they are “sustainable enough that they could last a few winters.” Currently, many cats lack shelter from extreme weather, such as the record heat New Orleans experienced this summer. 

Not only do Campus Cats and TWIA want the designs to be practical, but they would also like them to have an artistic element. 

The brief included photos of existing cat home structures to inspire the teams’ creativity. Sophia Lindahl, co-chair of TWIA, described some of the styles in the photos as “brutalist architecture [with] concrete forms, minimalist, simple architecture and geometric/parametric forms [with] funky shapes fitting together.”

“I’m really excited to see what these people draw up and how creative they can get with it,” Callari said.

“We as architecture students are given a lot of opportunities to design really unique structures but are never actually executed,” First-year architecture student Dean Behrend said. “This is a unique opportunity for us to use our skills that we’ve learned here at Tulane [and] actually use them for good.”

The teams will have the entire day to create their initial design sketches and outline how they plan to develop the structures using the $150 to $250 budget.

The three winning teams will be announced on Dec. 9. The chosen designs will cover the three areas with the highest cat concentration: Richardson Memorial Hall, Wall Residence Hall and Dixon Concert Hall. 

The structures are set to go into production in the following spring. 

TWIA and Campus Cats encourage anyone who is interested to sign up for the charrette, regardless of if they are an architecture major or not. 

“I think the best pairing would be someone who really is into cats and someone who’s really into architecture,” Callari said. “The more the merrier.”

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