Panda House Copenhagen Zoo: An Amazing Natural Abode for Pandas
- Project Name: Panda House
- Project Type: Cultural, Entertainment
- Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
- Architects: Bjarke Ingels Group
- Client Name: Copenhagen Zoo
- Area of Project: 2450 m²
- Year of Completion: 2019
- Photographs: Rasmus Hjortshoj
- Partners In Charge: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle
- Project Manager: Ole Elkjær-Larsen
- Project Leaders: Nanna Gyldholm Møller, Kamilla Heskje, Tommy Bjørnstrup
- Design Team: Alberto Menegazzo, Alex Ritivoi, Carlos Soria, Christian Lopez, Claus Rytter Bruun de Neergaard, Dina Brændstrup, Eskild Schack Pedersen, Fabiana Cortolezzis, Federica Longoini, Frederik Skou Jensen, Gabrielé Ubareviciute, Gökce Günbulut, Hanne Halvorsen, Høgni Laksáfoss, Jiajie Wang, Jinseok Jang, Joanna Plizga, Lone Fenger Albrechtsen, Luca Senise, Maja Czesnik, Margarita Nutfulina, Maria Stolarikova, Martino Hutz, Matthieu Brasebi, Pawel Bussold, Richard Howis, Seongil Choo, Sofia Sofianou, Stefan Plugar, Tobias Hjortdal, Tore Banke, Victor Bejenaru, Xiaoyi Gao
The Panda House Copenhagen Zoo is a collaborative work of BIG, Schonherr Landscape Architects, MOE, and numerous zoologists to create an ideal natural habitat for the bears. These two bears namely Mao Sun and Xing Er were a gift to the queen of Denmark from the Chinese government when she visited China in 2014. Thus they were decided to be shifted to the Copenhagen Zoo.
“We studied the social and behavioural needs of the giant pandas: apart from the mating season, pandas are loners by nature — male and female pandas need to be separated from each other such that they can’t smell, hear or have physical contact,” explains said David Zahle, partner, BIG.
The early designs for the panda house by Bjarke Ingels Group were unveiled in 2017. The form evolved from the Chinese yin yang symbol, offering separate areas for the male and female bears so that they can’t hear, see or even smell each other until their mating season.
Thus taking inspiration from the yin yang symbol which depicts opposite but balanced forces, the circular site was divided into distinct yet harmonious spaces through a curved wall creating an undulating landscape. These segregated spaces are such that can be merged flexibly during their mating seasons. The slope formed by the curved wall is utilized for forming mixed environments for the pandas like bamboo forests and dense misty forests.
Along its periphery, runs a ramp with varying wall heights, thus allowing people to observe the pandas from distinct levels. The space where the land is raised offers an open-air viewing platform to the guests along the bamboo forest. Whereas at the ground level it opens up into an indoor observation area lined with glass partitions. BIG has also incorporated a French-Asian bistro for the public so that they can enjoy dining along with the lush landscape, offering a more immersive experience.
“Architecture is like portraiture. To design a home for someone is like capturing their essence, their character, and their personality in built form,” concluded BIG founder Bjarke Ingels. “In the case of the two great pandas, their unique solitary nature requires two similar but separate habitats.”
“The curvy lines are undulating in sections to create the necessary separation between him and her – as well as between them and us,” he said.
The Panda House BIG comprises two floors: the ground floor, where a ramp connects the interior spaces, and the second floor, which leads towards a rocky slope following into the dense bamboo forest. The ground floor of Panda House Observation Center also includes a restaurant, placed between the elephant’s zones and the panda’s zone and various other amenities for the visitors. Thus the visitors can have a fine dine while rejoicing the view of both the animals simultaneously.
There is also a shop located between both the animal houses and the Main Square, just outside of Panda House Denmark. All the interior functions are planned to have the view of the lush landscapes at eye level, alluring the visitors towards wildlife and their engagement with nature. The upper floor has a ring-shaped panoramic terrace, both floors offering extensive views over the pandas’ enclosure.
There are huge varieties of plants, climbing trees, tree trunks, and rocks throughout the habitat. Along with these, there are numerous water elements too, such as streams, basins, and waterfalls thus enriching the ambience and cooling the spaces during summer.
Creating an artificial habitat for two giant pandas was not easy. A Panda is an antisocial animal that, apart from a short yearly mating period of two to three days, lives an isolated life and doesn’t prefer the presence of other pandas nearby. Furthermore, it likes varying natural habitats, from shady forests to sunny meadows, depending on seasons and temperatures.
“Overall, the Panda House is designed to feel like humans are the visitors in the pandas’ home, rather than pandas being the exotic guests from faraway lands,” said Zahle.
Panda house by Bjarke Ingels Group has been a stunning outcome of a series of workshops and experiments and collaborative efforts of zoologists, veterinarians, and panda experts, serving as an anchor point for Copenhagen zoo. It has also responded to the species’ vulnerable challenges and threats of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. It also provides them with optimal mating conditions, which is one of the major challenges found in these species. The design offers immense opportunities to pandas to relax, eat, explore, seek shade or sun as per season, temperature, and preferences.