Copenhagen Gallery

Hippo House

The Copenhagen Zoo's new hippo house is part of a new savannah area and has improved conditions for animals and audience alike

It may sound crazy if you have not seen it with your own eyes, but in Søndermarken you may see antelopes, zebras and other savannah animals grazing outdoors in the warm months of the year. Yet you do not have to worry about running into a bad-tempered rhinoceros on your Sunday stroll, because the savannah is part of the Zoo's section for African animals which was begun in 2001 and completed in 2007 with the opening of Dall & Lindhardsen's new hippo house.

The savannah covers an area of 1.5 hectares and is bordered by a 700-metre long path, leading visitors round to the different species of animals living here. Therefore the path also runs straight through the new house which, apart from improving living conditions for its four-legged inhabitants, gives the public a better insight into the everyday hippo life.

Refuge for cold nights

Normally hippos do not need a roof over their heads, but even though they are large and thick-skinned, the Danish climate is too cold, after all, for the African animals. The new house is thus intended as a refuge where Zoo's three hippos can spend the winter.

Carved into the landscape

Built into a green hill separating the Zoo from Søndermarken Park, the new hippo house appears like a projecting crystal prism with its large areas of glazing.

Behind the glass, which provides light to the house and a view over the savannah, the hippos can frolic in a heated pool offering Zoo's visitors a chance to get up close - though behind a wall of reinforced glass separating the public and the hippo areas. The glass wall gives visitors an opportunity to watch the animals in their underwater environment. A water treatment system has been installed to prevent the water in the tank becoming muddy.

The artificial lake is hemmed in by tropical plants inhabited by various species of exotic birds, and in the middle there is a small island for the hippos. The house also contains more private spaces, the hippos' quarters, which are not visible to the public.

Walls like hippo skin

The hippo house is built of rough materials. The walls are cast in concrete with wooden shuttering and left as-cast, and the main materials used are stone, metal and wood. The architects intended the house to be reminiscent of and to feel like a hippopotamus, since visitors cannot touch the animals themselves.

Made possible by a donation

Together with the savannah and other new animal quarters the price of the hippo house amounted to as much as DKK 80m. The money was donated by the two foundations OJD Fonden and Annie and Otto Johs. Detlefs Almennyttige Fond which also funded the purchase and transport of three white rhinoceros from Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.

Recognition from the city government

Every year the City of Frederiksberg awards a prize for beautiful and good building design in the borough. In 2008 no less than two of Zoo's new buildings received this recognition: the Hippo House and Foster & Partners' Elephant House in the northern part of the Zoo.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014