The design of the new Panda House at Copenhagen Zoo by BIG begins with a circular shape, formed by the surrounding existing facilities at the intersection of multiple walkways. 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. The habitat forms the most naturalistic possible environment for their lives and relationship with each other, providing the freedom to roam about and the ideal conditions to mate – one of the major challenges facing Pandas from becoming endangered.
The Panda House responds to the species’ main threats to extinction - habitat loss and fragmentation - by providing a safe and contiguous environment that’s also conducive for reproduction. BIG proposed a circular shape for the design – befitting the site perfectly between existing buildings and enabling the literal yin-yang symbol to create separate enclosures for male and female pandas. The architectural parts of the earth are then lifted from either side of the “yin” and “yang” to form space for stables belowground, simultaneously creating an incline to naturally face the pandas toward the audience.
Commenting on the project Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner of BIG said: “Architecture is like portraiture. To design a home for someone is like capturing their essence, their character and personality in built form. In the case of the two great Pandas, their unique solitary nature requires two similar but separate habitats - one for her and one for him. The habitat is formed like a giant yin and yang symbol, two halves: the male and the female, complete each other to form a single circular whole.
“The curvy lines are undulating in section to create the necessary separation between him and her - as well as between them and us. Located at the heart of the park, we have made the entire enclosure accessible from 360 degrees, turning the two pandas into the new rotation point for Copenhagen Zoo.”
The WAN Awards Future Projects category is now open until 30th June.