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Party Aadvark / all photos © Inge Hondebrink

Burger’s Zoo, the largest zoo in Holland, near the city of Arnhem, wanted to make a splash with the celebration of their 100th year. The zoo wanted to create a present for the people of Arnhem, a contribution in the form of art, said artist Florentijn Hofman at Bloomberg Businessweek‘s recent design conference.

Walking around the zoo, Hofman came upon the aadvark, a “really nice creature, with a long tail, big ears, and almost human claws.” This unique animal, “one of the last remaining dinosaurs in Africa,” can “dig a huge hole in about 2 minutes.” But they rarely do. They sleep about 23 hours a day.

So Hofman imagined what an aadvark would look like after a big party, after perhaps having too much wine. This aadvark still has his party hat on, but “he’s lying down on his back and enjoying a rest.”

The zoo wanted to put Hofman’s aadvark in a “triple A location,” but he nixed that idea, seeking a more intimate site. The city and the zoo came across a “former wasteland” in the city center, which landscape architecture firm Buro Harro had been working on restoring for some time. Everyone decided this was the ideal spot.

Hofman said a small-sized park was necessary to make the impact of the aadvark even greater. Buro Harro wrote in Landezine: “The combination of park and statue was perfect.” The aadvark, which is some 30 meters long and 12 meters wide now lies on his back in a “gently sloping, mini-scale natural park made of a soft bed.”

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Construction was tricky given the site’s small size. Hofman’s giant sculptures are usually created on-site with spray-on concrete. This time, the 130,000 kilogram sculpture had to be created elsewhere and then trucked in 150 pieces. See a making-of video:

As the aadvark took shape, Hofman said he informed people in the area what was coming. “It’s their space. We went around showing drawings and used social media. We created nice designs to get people in the mood to party.”

One hour before opening, Hofman said, there was a line of 30 kids waiting to get on the tail and then climb up on to the belly.

At its height, the aadvark is five-meters high. “If kid falls off, something terrible could happen.” He said in contrast to the litigious U.S., the risk was allowed in Holland. Hofman said “everyone liked this work so we tried it out.” The artist himself has kids who are 5-6 years old. He said he wouldn’t let them play on the aadvark, but “a lot of parents did. It’s their own responsibility, and that’s a good thing.”

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Why a party aadvark? Hofman said “my work is about creating joy, to connect and communicate. Places change when they put in a work of mine. People start laughing and get out of their cars.”

Another one of Hofman’s hilarious projects is his traveling gargantuan rubber duck. It has become a global phenomenon, appearing in Hong Kong, Osaka, and Pittsburgh last year.

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Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman / Sparkalicious Wit

See Hofman discuss the aadvark and rubber duck: