The Copenhagen Zoo is giving the starchitect treatment to the home of its most anticipated new tenants. Bjarke Ingels Group unveiled designs for a beautiful yin and yang-shaped enclosure that will be completed just in time for the arrival of two giant pandas from Chengdu. The new Panda House will feature a circular habitat divided into two lushly landscaped halves that mimic the panda’s natural habitat and the Taoist symbol for balance.
Created in collaboration with Schønherr Landscape Architects and MOE, BIG’s Panda House circular shape slots in between the existing buildings at the intersection of multiple walkways and is split into two yin and yang-shaped halves. The division of the 2,450-square-meter enclosure serves the practical purpose of separating the males from the females—an essential feature given the animals’ unique solitary nature and to increase the probability of mating since the pandas should not be able to see, hear, or even smell each other for most of the year. The separation, however, is visually unnoticeable and the two halves appear to blend seamlessly together.
“Architecture is like portraiture,” said Bjarke Ingels. “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.”
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The Panda House comprises a 1,250-square-meter indoor site and a 1,200-square-meter outdoor area spread across two floors. The bottom parts of the yin and yang shapes are lifted upwards to create underground space for stables and a restaurant. The resulting sloped terrain also allows direct views into the panda habitats from the ground floor and from the visitor’s main circulation loop above. The vegetation and hilly landscape mimics the panda’s natural habitat in western China, from dense mist forests to light green bamboo forests, and offer “the freest and most naturalistic possible environment for [the pandas] and relationship with each other.” The new Panda House is scheduled to open in 2018.