Savannah house / LAM Architects


Architects: LAM Architects
Location: Rotterdam,
Program: Giraffe-house and visitor centre
Structural Engineer: CAE Nederland
Wooden Frames: Heko Spanten
Building Contractor: Dura Vermeer Heyma Rotterdam
E-Contractor: Electro-Four
Client: Stichting Koninklijke Rotterdamse Diergaarde, Rotterdam
Constructed Area: 570 sqm
Project year: 2008-2009
Photographs: Franken Architecturalphotography

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Sustainable shelter & healthy indoor climate

The accommodation for the giraffe is designed as a “shelter”, of witch the archetype of the African coral has served as the model. The design provides a comfortable place for the animals. It also gives them more living space, for the giraffes are free and can go in and out as the please. To create a sustainable building with a good indoor climate, the design takes into account the natural elements: sun, wind and rain.

sustainable section
sustainable section

For natural light and heat so-called passive solar energy is uses. The roof is transparent and the height of the walls is determined for the best solar potential. Inside but also outside, because even on a beautiful sunny autumn or winter day, the animals are able to stand at the north side outside the building and in the sun (see section). On cold and cloudy days is usually sufficient only to heat the animals instead of the whole 4500m3 residence. This is possible because the giraffes can find the necessary warmth ad so called “cuddle-walls”. The heat that is required for these “cuddle-walls” are woodchips burned in stead of fossil fuels.


Natural ventilation also contributes to the pleasant atmosphere. This is possible because the building and the ventilation are oriented at the most common wind direction. The principle of negative air pressure pulls the wind trough the building.

The annually rainfall of approximately 330,000 litres, on the roof of the Savannah House will be collected and used for the thirsty plants in the adjacent building.

Animal welfare

The floor plan is without corners, to provide a relaxed and natural behaviour of the animals. In this way, they are not able clamp each other at a corner, the animals can always turn their back on a approaching conflict an run away. The ‘bulging’ of the facade gives the animals more freedom. The giraffes will never experience the physical limits of the building, for the building bends away from them.

floor plan sketch
floor plan sketch

Many materials within “licking-range” of the giraffes are applied untreated. This is to prevent them from toxic substances, witch could get in through this licking. Where it is not possible to have an untreated solution a very durable non toxic application is used.

A specially designed “cruh” ensures that animals are not to be stunned by research. In addition, an investigation or operation, because of this “crush” is quickly and smoothly done.



The Savannah House, with its specific characteristics, is comfortable for the animals, user-friendly and energy efficient/effective. Sustainability is not only reflected in the energetic concept of the design but also in, plan and materials including untreated wood with FSC-label and grasses as reed and pressed bamboo. By carefully selecting and applying the right materials the building is nearly free of maintenance, convenient for operating costs, but also for the environment. Less maintenance means even less annoyance for the animals, the public and less environmental harassment.

Cite: "Savannah house / LAM Architects" 27 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • thomas

    Where did i see this before?
    ah wait, Renzo Piano!

    • Rani

      That’s why it looked so familiar! I was scratching my head to remember what it reminded me of : The Renzo Piano Tjibaou Cultural Center.

  • Cicicle

    Wait WAT!!
    Look at the sketches for the Piano’project! Completely “inspired”!
    Do they think we don’t know The Noumea Center?

  • noName

    As you can see, not everybody can play the piano, te lam om piano te spelen.

  • thomas

    “The Piano has been drinking…not me” – Tom Waits

  • Niko

    SO WHAT ,does that mean that we cannot translate something old into new

    • thomas

      Depends on your definition of ‘new’.

    • noName

      If something new means reducing the original piano to a formal translation with girafes in it…yes we can.

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  • Alex Leonard

    even right doown to the steel crossframing in the glass roof, this is Piano through and through. If this is something new, than so is the McMansion.

  • ciacengeric

    what a shame!! copycat!

  • natch

    And form wehre Renzo took the inspiration?
    And from wehre you?

  • Juni

    At least some did the same in lyon (for giraffes too) but the reference was less obvious.
    See? you can actually do some wooden styled giraffe venue without copying on your neighboor!

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  • gonzalo iturriaga

    ok!!!! but this is a renzo piano proyect?????

  • Sandor

    How cute, there are still people that think architecture is just about form or appearance ..

    I have to admit that there is a resemblance, but to my opinion this project is more about the eco part then the shape as just being a shape.

    • thomas

      again, even more shameful that the eco part is very resembling as well.
      if architecture is reading a book, taking a sketchpaper and tracing cute images, then please let me become a gardener.

      • Betty

        Well I agree with Sandor ………… and say lucky giraffes. But all of you who have complaints should look beyond ………and READ before you criticise. Because especially when you take the time to read the article and design approach one will understand this unique design. I think it is designed from within and around the animals in stead of making a just a ‘shape’. Clearly the designer took interests in the inhabitants. here ‘form follows function’ or rather behaviour and weather. If you look at Piano there is quit a difference Piano’s design is much larger, more details and I guess more expensive / luxurious . Different use of materials on top of this……….it does not compete with it at all. By the way , I love the suggested African atmosphere and when you look at a different photo, one will see the building at the front and one can clearly see the difference , or rather that it is not at all like Piano’s, it quite unique.
        Might I suggest to the people Who only watch pictures to read and observe, look closely before one criticises it??
        In my opinion great architecture, fits the zoo and the animals perfectly, Love to go there so….

        I saw pianos project end this one: conclusion Bouth beautifull but many many differces.

  • Liam


  • titisnurabadi

    definitely…playing PIANO.., i am starting to think about we need that? or..?

  • hctrgy

    giraffes are really cool animals!!!

  • Enrique

    The definition of this:WRONG

  • Eric

    Nice! ….I’m not sure what Ana has to do with this project though?