The award winning panda plan
Pandas are considered a national treasure in China, yet despite their noble status and relative lack of predators they’re still very much at risk. Only around 1800 of them exist in the wild - humans being their biggest threat.
Australian-born design practice HASSELL is doing its bit to help spread the conservation message related to these cuddly icons by coming up with a Panda Land master plan concept for the southern Chinese city of Chengdu.
The region constitutes the world’s most significant contiguous area of panda habitat, including a number of UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites and house giant panda sanctuaries. The HASSELL master plan, prepared in collaboration with the Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute and with specialist advice from Australian landscape architect and zoo design-expert Jon Coe Design, won an international design competition.
“Our winning proposal is based on the key principles of conservation, brand, destination, resilience and custodianship, and a high sensitivity towards the existing conservation sites and sanctuaries in the region,” said Andrew Wilkinson, HASSELL Principal and project leader.
“It’s highly rewarding to be involved in this project that delivers on China’s increasing efforts to protect and increase awareness of this vulnerable species and its native habitat,” he said.
HASSELL says its plan creates a “connected, immersive and authentic Panda Trail across Chengdu to tell the conservation story of China’s iconic giant panda, inviting visitors to explore, discover and dream.
“Our master plan identifies three sites across Chengdu - Beihu, Dujiangyan and Longquan Mountain - that are critical to raising awareness of environmental challenges facing giant pandas and other species, including habitat loss and livestock grazing,” the company says.
“At Dujiangyan, we envision visitors as explorers rather than conventional tourists. People can immerse themselves in the natural landscape and wander through the valleys of a panda-habitat parkland, observation station and eco resort.
“Beihu focuses on the surrounding communities, bringing them into the conservation efforts. Scientific research and cultural innovation centres will improve local education about the complex and intrinsic qualities of Chengdu’s endangered native species and their habitats.
“At Longquan Mountain, our landscape restoration strategy re-vegetates the degraded mountain areas. A new international education and learning venue and a nature park will connect the mountain to the new eastern edge of the city and a global market.”
HASSELL says the plan draws heavily on research into how people perceive and engage with wildlife. By locating animal enclosures away from the main paths, limiting visibility to the exhibits through key openings and positioning animals at a higher level than the visitors it dissolves the common idea of humans being dominant over nature.