Step inside houses that look like giraffes, sheep, elephants, and other cute critters.
Architects have long been inspired by nature’s forms, but some visionaries have gone a step further–one might even say they’ve gone “hog wild”–building zany churches, schools, and offices that look like gigantic animals. From an Australian crocodile hotel to an Indonesian chicken church, you can find hilarious examples of animal architecture all around the world.
Some, such as a Filipino crab-shaped restaurant, pay tribute to the local fauna and hint at the building’s function. Others, like a Bulgarian snail house, seem to have no purpose other than to make you smile. Take a gander at these 15 eccentric structures that resemble everything from dogs to ducks.
National Fisheries Development Board
WHERE: Hyderabad, India
Located in a commercial district of Hyderabad, the headquarters of the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) looks like a fish out of water. Quite literally, as the four-story building is shaped like a silver carp with three fins, a tail, and a gaping mouth. Every morning, the staff enters through a staircase below the left flipper. At their lunch break, you can see them gazing out the round blue eyes, which double as windows. Why did the Indian government build this cartoonish building? Simply because the NFDB works to develop the national fisheries industry. Quite a dry-sounding mission for such a fishy office.
The Giant Koala
WHERE: Dadswells Bridge, Victoria, Australia
Australia’s Grampians National Park is known for its exotic wildlife, particularly dingoes and kangaroos. But the strangest native creature is the one that sits at Dadswells Bridge: The Giant Koala. Rising up nearly 50 feet, the marsupial looks unintentionally creepy with a grim smile, bulging coffee bean eyes, and hair sticking out of its ears. Sculptor Ben Van Zetten built the Giant Koala in 1988 out of bronze and steel, and it quickly became a kitschy tourist attraction. In 2009, the animal was named Sam to honor a koala who died in a wildfire and draw attention to their threatened environments. Step between Sam’s grey claws and you’ll be rewarded with ice cream and souvenirs.
INSIDER TIPVisit the small zoo next door to see two real-life koalas as well as cockatoos, lambs, and other Australian animals.
Giraffe Childcare Center
WHERE: Paris, France
Paris’ classic architecture stands in stark contrast to the Giraffe Childcare Center. Designed by Hondelatte Laporte Architects, the building looks as if a yellow giraffe is stuck inside a protruding silver slab. The African mammal’s long legs hold up the cantilevered roof, in a brilliant example of “form follows function.” Up on the rooftop, you can clamor on its back and pet the long neck. As you explore the modern nurseries and playgrounds, you’ll be delighted to run into other oversized animals. A two-story polar bear raises his paws up to the balcony, while polka dot ladybugs perch on the patio wall.
Kumbuk River Resort
WHERE: Buttala, Sri Lanka
The “Trojan Horse” experience comes to life at Kumbuk River Resort, where you can sleep inside a 40-foot elephant made from wood and straw. With big ears, stumpy feet, and a protruding trunk, the beast blends right in with the surrounding Sri Lankan jungle. Enter the Elephant Villa from under its nose, which opens into a spacious living area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Climb the ladder into the head for an upper deck filled with art. In line with the elephant theme, all guests receive a free mud bath with their stay.
WHERE: Java, Indonesia
In 1989, a Javanese man dreamt that he should build a church for people of all religions, shaped like a dove wearing a crown. He embarked on the project, but in a classic case of “don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” ran out of money and was forced to abandon it. Locals, however, were intrigued by the dilapidated stricture that resembled a squawking fowl. Now, hundreds per day flock to the Chicken Church (as they dubbed it), which has been revitalized by artists. Pray in rooms that look like jail cells, eat Indonesian snacks in the cafe, and climb into the crown of the “chicken” to see views of the surrounding mountains.
INSIDER TIPThe Chicken Church opens around 5:30 a.m. daily. Arrive on the early side since the popular site soon gets packed with tourists.
Dog, Ram, and Sheep Buildings
WHERE: Tirau, New Zealand
In 1994, a New Zealand couple was frustrated by the lack of customers wanting their wool products. To attract attention from passersby, they covered a barn with corrugated scrap iron and turned it into a silly sheep head. The ewe was successful in shepherding in curious visitors, so they added two more buildings that look like a ram and a happy dog. You’ll find local products inside the ruminants, while the dog holds a visitor center and toilets. Don’t miss out on the owner’s funky collection of art made from discarded corrugated metal.
Kura Kura Ocean Park
WHERE: Jepara, Indonesia
If you glance out the window while flying above Jepara, you’ll be surprised to see a Godzilla-sized turtle crawling out from the Java Sea and onto the shore. This behemoth is actually Kura Kura Ocean Park, an aquarium that educates visitors about local ocean species and conservation. The structure looks remarkably like a giant Indonesian green turtle, complete with wrinkled skin and a textured shell. Enter from under the raised neck and explore two floors of tanks containing bright sea creatures.
INSIDER TIPAt happy hour, sip on a cocktail at a nearby cafe and watch the sun set over the turtle’s shell.
Wat Samphran Dragon Temple
WHERE: Khlong Mai, Thailand
Thailand has many flamboyant temples, but few can surpass the fierce Wat Samphran. Located 25 miles west of Bangkok, it’s impossible to miss this 17-story pink cylinder that is being strangled by a scaly green dragon. The mythical creature’s pointy feet cover some of the upper windows, and its head rises above the roof in mid-roar. This Dragon Temple was constructed in the early 1980s, after the founder saw a vision of it during a seven-day meditative fast. Cover your knees and shoulders, and step inside to admire Buddhist relics and statues. Ride the elevator to the roof so you can touch the dragon’s beard and gaze at its red nose, as well as take in panoramic views.
INSIDER TIPIn addition to the 260-foot-tall dragon, the temple houses other colossal animal statues. Look for an expressive white elephant in the garden, and a rabbit with paws held in prayer at the dining hall.
The Big Duck
WHERE: Flanders, New York
American roadside attractions are notoriously kitschy, but New York’s Big Duck is the “quackiest” of them all. Hatched in 1931, the 20-foot-tall bird has a white ferro-cement body and eyes made from Ford Model T taillights. Three locals designed it to encourage drivers to make a pit stop and wander inside to buy eggs and duck products. Today, the Big Duck is a beloved local landmark that contains a gift shop. On special occasions, the caretakers dress up the bird in ridiculous outfits. It wears a necklace of Christmas lights in December and an Uncle Sam hat and sash for the Fourth of July.
WHERE: Dagupan City, Philippines
The Attack of the Crab Monsters horror movie comes to life in the Philippines, thanks to a frightening restaurant shaped like a crab. When it opened in 1981, Alimango was the go-to spot for seafood dinners and disco parties. However, the two-story venue soon folded and was left to rot. Once painted bright red, the crustacean has become a monstrosity, with rusting spiked pincers and bent legs that look ready to scuttle towards you. Regardless, locals have turned the crab into a hangout. Quite the sight to see grandpas lounging on plastic chairs and teens playing basketball beneath the ominous-looking claws.
WHERE: Karlsruhe, Germany
The Germans invented kindergarten, so it makes sense that they designed a schoolhouse that is the definition of “the cat’s meow.” At Kindergarten Wolfartsweier, the children sing, play, and learn inside a big kitty with pointed ears and whiskers. The students enter through the open mouth of “Die Katze” (The Cat), giving the impression that they are being swallowed up. The clever design transforms two round windows into eyes and has added play areas in the outstretched paws. From the upper level, youngsters can slide down the steel tube forms the cat’s tail to reach the playground in the back.
Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel
WHERE: Jabiru, Australia
“Crikey,” Australia has a hotel shaped like a saltwater crocodile. From a bird’s eye view, the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel looks like an 820-foot-long reptile slithering across the landscape. Guests must dodge the spiky white teeth and enter through its jaws. In the belly of the green beast, you’ll find luxury hotel rooms and a serene courtyard. The Kakadu Hotel opened in 1988, inspired by the popularity of the Crocodile Dundee movie. Today, it’s fully indigenous-owned and pays tribute to the native Gagudju people, who consider the crocodile to be their spiritual ancestor.
INSIDER TIPYou can see real crocodiles in the surrounding Kakadu National Park. Join a cruise or go to a viewing platform to safely spot some of the 10,000 saltwater and freshwater crocs that live here.
WHERE: Sofia, Bulgaria
While driving through the suburbs of Sofia, you might do a double-take when you see a rainbow snail nestled among the drab buildings. Slow down and be astonished by a five-story Snail House that was built by artists. With two light-up tentacles, a droopy face, and a colorful swirling shell, the insect is straight out of a fever dream. Residents enter through the curved mouth and let out air through the eye vents. Notice that the chimney is a bumblebee, while a radiator is disguised as a pumpkin. Whether the psychedelic Snail House is a work of art or eyesore is up to you.
The Big Merino
WHERE: Goulburn, NSW, Australia
Nicknamed “Rambo,” the Big Merino is a 50-foot merino ram that stands tall over Goulburn, New South Wales. Unveiled in 1985, the smug-looking concrete sheep was built to bring attention to local wool products. Travelers can step inside the portly Rambo to see a historic exhibition, and buy Mohair and sheepskin products. Be sure to go around to the back and take a selfie with his low-hanging, um, nether-region.
Dog Bark Park
WHERE: Cottonwood, Idaho
It’s “Beagle-mania” at an Idaho bed-and-breakfast called Dog Bark Park. The inn, nicknamed Sweet Willy, looks like a 30-foot brown-and-white puppy with floppy ears and a red bow-tie. Toby, a 12-foot-tall beagle, stands by his side. The themed B&B has only one suite inside Sweet Willy’s belly, which you can access by staircase. This room is a dog-lover’s dream, decorated in canine carpets and bed frames. Get to know the artist couple that runs the funky inn, and peruse the dog sculptures that they carve with chainsaws.