Home to the giant panda, one of China’s national treasures, the Sichuan Province constitutes the largest contiguous area of panda habitat in the world. The province’s capital city Chengdu has developed its identity and built an international brand around the giant panda. And now it is poised to make a huge investment to protect and further develop its natural asset.
Last year, Chengdu commissioned an international competition for the master planning, habitat design and sustainable tourism framework for three sites across the city centred on the conservation, protection and education about the giant panda and Sichuan’s other native flora and fauna.
HASSELL has been named as one of the three winning practices in the competition. The proposal is a collaboration between the HASSELL team helmed by Shanghai-based HASSELL Principal Andrew Wilkinson, Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute, and habitat design consultant Jon Coe Design.
The three sites are made up of Beihu (35-square-kilometres), Dujiangyan (23-square-kilometres) and Longquan Mountain (11-square-kilometres). HASSELL’s winning design proposes a Panda Trail that connects the three sites and offers a journey highlighted by various experiences based on the surrounding context and target audience.
Beihu offers an opportunity to learn and discover more about the city’s landscape and wildlife via a research centre and cultural innovation centre.
Envisioned for explorers as well as tourists, Dujiangyan offers an immersive experience in a natural park with scenic valleys and an eco-resort.
At Longquan Mountain, a landscape restoration initiative sees the degraded area being revegetated. This live and ongoing process will be on display and serve as a learning venue about the danger and the mitigation of deforestation.
“It’s highly rewarding to be involved in this project that delivers on China’s increasing efforts to protect and increase awareness of this critical species and its native habitat,” says Wilkinson.
A number of design features on the proposal seek to dissolve the common idea that humans are dominant over nature. These include locating the enclosures away from the main paths, limiting visibility to the exhibits through openings, and positioning the animals at a higher level than the visitors.
Technology will further boost the visitor experience. Visitors eager to experience a close encounter with the giant pandas will be able to do without the expense of the actual animals’ comfort via VR at the trail’s Digital Park.
Renderings courtesy of HASSELL.
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