Cats, caffeine and cool vibes galore? It may seem impossible, but the task of converting a historic two-story brick building in the heart of Buffalo’s Lower West Side into a cat café came up with resourceful local architecture firm Davidson Rafailidis. Known for their projects that combine creative design decisions with collaborative accessibility (see some of their previous work here), this time around the company faced a unique challenge: how to artfully design a space that is suitable for both cats and people.
View of the trendy transition area of the Together Apart Cat Café in Buffalo, New York, designed by Davidson Rafailidis.
Since there are strict regulations regarding the separation of food preparation rooms and animals, the architectural duo had to get creative and follow the call in their typical cool style.
Side entrance in a low brick wall with access to the outside area of the Together Apart Cat Café
View through a window in the brick wall into the outside area of the cat café
Although the project, called “Together Apart”, was completed before the pandemic, its opening was caused by the lockdown and any resulting guidelines, and its layout proved essential to its success. The design of the space made it possible to function as an animal shelter and cat adoption as well as a café, support each other and coexist beneficially for both the local community and its residents.
Close up of the glass walls that make up the cat protection part of. separate
In the one designed by Davidson Rafailidis. Cats playfully roam their designated area
View into the brick cat café from the outside terrace, in the foreground a large operable glass partition is visible.
This is ultimately the goal for the space and its surroundings, with Buckminster’s Together Apart Cat Café being just the first stage of construction on the surrounding property (itself a city zoned area to encourage mixed-use common spaces). Despite the necessary layouts, the café uses its space in creative and unexpected ways that could also accommodate other activities. Stephanie Davidson, co-director of Davidson Rafaildis, explains, “We are interested in combining activities that are otherwise problematic.” In this case, cats and caffeine.
To achieve this, the couple made the space accessible from either end, allowing the two halves to work independently while also complying with local health regulations. Of course, the two are still connected by “lots of cut, mismatched, misaligned, and mirrored elements in space,” Davidson said.
The story goes on
Large operable partition wall opens the interior of the cat café to the outside.
The rooms meet in the middle with an overlapping area that is cleverly integrated into the overall design concept. Transparent partitions and a full glass wall promote connectivity and the opportunity to encounter the café’s cat-like residents, while the “human” space is lined with benches for visitors who want to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
Although the color palette is neutral here, it serves as the perfect backdrop for all the zicks and zags of the partition walls and clever architectural details. The whole effect, despite its physical separation, promotes a sense of continuity within the space; Though different halves of the same whole, you never feel that far from a furry friend or two. The rear area of the Café’a, in which the “catio” is located, contains a 2.50 meter high masonry wall which, if necessary, can support a possible second floor in the future.
Simple industrial bathroom in Buffalo’s new Together Apart Cat Café.
View of the café area of the Together Apart Cat Café designed by Davidson Rafailidis.
Thanks to the city’s new zoning regulations, there are now many projects on the horizon that creatively meet diverse spatial needs – and Davidson Rafailidis will almost certainly be involved in their development. With her flair for blurring the boundaries between inside and outside and creating community-oriented spaces, the possibilities are endless. As Davidson says, “The variety of ways to share spaces and how different programs could coexist with a lot of density and visibility is really exciting for us.” Until then, residents have to be content with the Together Apart Cat Café: great news for Cat lovers and coffee connoisseurs in this historic Buffalo neighborhood.
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