In Catford, south London, a once-unloved alleyway got a makeover featuring over 27,000 cat faces. There, both inside and outside five apartments, you’ll find cats everywhere, in laser-cut outlines, door handles, and other feline embellishments. Talk about a cat lovers dream home!
The five apartment flats sit on an alley off Catford Broadway near the River Ravensbourne behind two existing shops. First, designers from Tsuruta Architects were tasked with delivering inspiration to revitalize the shopping area. Thus, it was a big task and one that would require creativity and inspiration. So, naturally, they chose cats and called the project the Queen of Catford.
What better way to liven up an alleyway than with alleycats?
The Queen of Catford
All around, decorative details in the Queen of Catford feature a cat’s head with pointy ears. For example, you can see the cat shape cut into a large external staircase and privacy screen outside the homes. Look close, and you’ll see a wall of cat shapes along the red carpet and pointy ears on the chimneys.
Considering all the details, the apartment building is a “love letter to feline friends,” wrote Fast Company.
''…we used the cat motif around 27,000 times throughout the building because people love it for its physicality, it makes people smile'' https://t.co/TMJhneRUol
— Homes & Property (@HomesProperty) September 15, 2021
Indoors, laser-cut cats create a modern-looking texture for built-in furniture in light wood and neutral tones. Upon further inspection, more cats appear in unexpected construction details everywhere. Also, on door handles you’ll see a bright flash of red cat faces. Moreover, you’ll spot cats on cupboard doors, coat hooks, and even on the plywood walls!
Our latest project, the Queen of Catford is near to completion, the PAC-MAN style (in fact the PAC MAN ghost!) balcony view shot by our contractor. pic.twitter.com/7dQJz5bwcd
— Tsuruta Architects (@tsuruarch) December 28, 2020
Katherine Ford and Raven Bjorn
Interestingly, the theme is about much more than cats. As part of the project, writer Chris Roberts created a complete story about two fictional women who lived in the once-thriving theater scene. From 1914 to 1921, the Windsor Film Studios were a nearby real-life silent film production house. Thus, the project incorporates storytelling as a means to explore the area’s rich history.
“We conceived a fictional narrative, The Queen of Catford, rooted around the area’s film industry that existed 100 years ago. It follows the lives of two young girls who meet on the Broadway and share their hopes, fears, and dreams – www.thequeenofcatford.org.” states Tsuruta Architects.
Listen to 'The Queen of Catford' – A story about the lives of two young girls who meet on #Catford Broadway and share their hopes, fears and dreams. https://t.co/KcZvWki7dv #SE6 #RavenBjorn #KatherineFord #KatandRaven #TheQueenofCatford @OneEyeGrey @tsuruarch pic.twitter.com/WZqWCMpLxN
— BlytheHillvillage 💙 (@BHillvillage) May 5, 2021
Who are these two women? One is named Katherine Ford, a wordplay on Catford, while the other is Raven Bjorn, for the nearby River Ravensbourne. On the outside of the building, two historic-looking blue plaques share the women’s stories.
Today, the Queen of Catford has been shortlisted for a New London Architecture Award.
See the Queen of Catford project below from Dezeen:
The History of Catford and Wildcats
Notably, the district may have derived its name from the wildcats which once roamed the area. Amazingly, the name dates back to 1254. However, another theory is the word “Catford” is a contraction of cattle and ford. Long ago, transporting cattle across the river ford may have been common.
If the name came from wildcats, they might have been Felis silvestris, Britain’s only wild member of the cat family. In appearance, they look somewhat like domestic tabby cats. On the other hand, today, people still report big cat sightings in the UK, such as the Beast of Exmoor, a puma-like cat spotted in 2021 and first seen in the 1970s.
See the European Wildcat in action from Wild Films:
The Catford Cat
Today, Catford is the site of the Catford Bridge and the Catford Cat, a huge black and white fiberglass cat that sits atop the “Catford Centre” sign. As you can see below, the mischievous-looking cat reaches down to the letter F in the sign.
See the Catford Cat via Everyday Nomad:
From Almost-Removed Landmark to Feline Inspiration
In 2017, Catford locals rallied to keep the landmark sign when the Lewisham Council considered removing it. In response, the council tweeted they would keep the cat. Now, the famous cat inspires projects to revitalize the area, like the Queen of Catford.
Sometimes, people think Catford earned its name from the iconic cat. However, it debuted relatively recently in 1974. That year, architects included the cat as part of plans to make Catford a shopping destination. From now on, it appears their giant-sized cat is here to stay as Catford embraces cat lovers and its long feline history.
Today, the Catford Cat has its own Twitter account.