Thoughtful urban development and wildlife conservation go hand-in-hand in Sasaki’s winning proposal for the Chengdu Panda Reserve, a series of three sites spanning 69 square kilometers in the western Chinese city also known as the panda capital of the world. With approximately 1,800 pandas left in the wild, the city leaders of Chengdu have launched an ambitious plan to grow their city — partly in hopes of making a bid to host the Olympics — and provide greater tourism infrastructure to fund research and protection of the giant panda. The Chengdu Panda Reserve project will aim to enhance conservation of the giant panda habitat, advance research and promote educational outreach.

rendering of people on a boardwalk surrounded by bamboo

The winner of an international competition, Sasaki’s designs for the Chengdu Panda Reserve will accommodate an estimated visitor count of more than 20 million — a figure that surpasses current annual visitors to Disneyland. The masterplan will consist of three sites: Longquanshan Panda Village, Beihu Panda Park and Dujiangyan Panda Wilderness.

Related: China is creating a giant panda park three times the size of Yellowstone

rendering of panda sleeping in a tree

rendering of people looking at red pandas

Longquanshan Panda Village will be located near Chengdu’s new airport and will offer a glimpse into conservation efforts as well as provide an educational overview of the city. Beihu Panda Park, an expanded version of the existing “Panda Base” visitor experience, will be placed close to downtown and provide a chance for guests to view pandas up close. The Dujiangyan Panda Wilderness, the most remote of the three sites, will primarily focus on research, including breeding techniques and assimilation of the giant pandas into the wild.

rendering of people walking on boardwalk with animals on each side

aerial rendering of pandas in large green lot

“The city needs the panda and the panda needs the city,” said Sasaki principal, landscape architect and urban designer Michael Grove. “The reserve creates a series of destinations around Chengdu which increase public awareness of the giant panda, educates about its habitat and highlights ongoing research efforts to protect this complex ecosystem. Our plan reconciles Chengdu’s urbanization with a conservation strategy for the panda, providing a sustainable framework to allow both to thrive.”

+ Sasaki

Images via Sasaki

rendering of people looking at pandas on green space