Magical or monstrosity? Ten buildings shaped like animals

 We can all fight about the best architectural style – Gothic? Neo-classical? Art deco? Bauhaus? – but deep down inside, we all know there's only one winner – buildings shaped like animals. And here are ten of the most magical.

Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, Northern Territory

With eyes on the roof, a swimming pool for a heart and guest rooms built into its body and tail, this hotel fully buys into the crocodile shape gimmick. It's a perhaps overelaborate nod to the real kings of Kakadu National Park – the crocs that roams the waterways. And, if you want to enter the hotel, you have to step between the pseudo-croc's jaws.

See accorhotels.com

Tirau I-Site, New Zealand

Doing the reputation of New Zealanders being obsessed with sheep no favours whatsoever, this tourist information centre takes the shape of a big sheepdog – complete with tongue hanging out. This is made even more ridiculous/ endearing by the fact it was designed to complement the neighbouring Merino Story , a shop selling woollen products – and, more importantly, made from corrugated iron in the shape of a massive sheep. See tirauinfo.co.nz

Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

It's almost worth going well out of the way to Cottonwood, Idaho, just to see the Dog Bark Park Inn. Created by a couple of chainsaw artists, this bed and breakfast is billed as the world's largest beagle. Rooms are inside the big doggie, including one in the dog's head. Inside, it is decorated with a whole host of canine carvings. Seedogbarkparkinn.com

Kindergarten Wolfartsweier, Germany

The attention to detail in this kindergarten in Karlsruhe can only be admired. The building is a big cat, where kids walk in through the mouth, and can exit along the tail – which is a slide. The big eyes at the front and whiskers dutifully placed over the door make it look incredibly cute. Designed by artists Tomi Ungerer and Ayla Suzan Yöndel, there's also a classroom in the belly.

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Wisconsin

The centrepiece of this rather niche hall of fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. is the four-and-a-half story tall fish that plays host to a somewhat tedious museum about fishing. There's also an observation deck, positioned right in the mouth. Keen anglers and trivia pedants will want to know that it's a concrete, steel and fibreglass muskellunge – a reasonably rare North American fish that's the largest in the pike family. See freshwater-fishing.org

The National Fisheries Development Board, India

Important decisions undoubtedly get made inside this building in Hyderabad, but it's rather difficult for locals to take anyone working there seriously when they operate from an enormous stainless steel fish. There are some cute touches to the design, such as the rounded windows acting as eyes and the pectoral fin acting as an awning above the entrance staircase. Four stories high, it opened in 2012. See nfdb.gov.in

KFC Marietta, Georgia, US

If you want your mediocre franchise restaurant to stand out, then you could do worse than follow the fine example of these folk from Georgia. KFC sells chicken, right? So why not sell the chicken from a big chicken? And lo, they've stuck an entirely decorative neck, head, eyes and beak on the roof in a brilliant bid to lure in passing custom. Bravo.

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The Giant Koala, Victoria

Of course, this follows in the fine tradition of Australia's Big Things. But a lot of them are either not buildings, per se – they're effectively giant statues – or it's a big thing put on top of a building. You can, however, go inside the Giant Koala, which is found in Dadswell Bridge near the Grampians. Tourist information and trinket shopping awaits should you step into the belly of the somewhat dog-eared old boy, which stands 14 metres tall. See thegiantkoala.com.au

Universum Bremen, Germany

Most cities have their own take on the hands-on science museum, but Bremen's effort is – for the genre – a subtle piece of animal-theming. The shiny, curvy metal affair juts out above a small billabong-esque lake, and looks rather like a mussel shell. You wouldn't want to eat it though – it has already opened and is sitting out in the sun. Others disagree, saying Universum looks more like a sperm whale when approached from the right angle. Universum-bremen.de

The Elephant Building, Bangkok

If there's a prize for the most pathetic piece of zoomorphic architecture, then the Elephant Building in Bangkok is an extremely strong contender. At the corner of Paholyothin Road and Ratchadaphisek Road, this looks like a big M shape apart from the slight indent on the third tower, where a big circular window acts as an eye, and a half-hearted adornment looks a bit like a tusk if you squint at it generously.

See also: The six designs for Sydney Harbour Bridge that didn't make the cut

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