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When Copenhagen Zoo in about two years can welcome its new black and white residents it is the result of several years of work.
On one hand, Copenhagen Zoo has participated in conservation work in China, on the other the head of the zoo, Steffen Stræde, has visited China more than ten times. However, it was the state visit by Queen Margrethe in 2014 that finally sealed the deal.
What remained was for the zoo to develop a suitable home for the pandas, and the task fell to architect studio BIG and the landscape architect studio Schønherr.
Sanne Slot Hansen from Schønherr has been the main architect on the green spaces and she had found it an exciting and interesting challenge:
»You can talk about a steep learning curve when you are working with animals and you don’t know the world about them from the start but we have had a fine corporation with the zoo. Previously, there was a big distance between the animals and the audience but today the emphasis is on the animal and the environment it is naturally a part of,« says Sanne Slot Hansen.
The core idea to the enclosure was established quite quickly. Viewed from above, the enclosure forms the yin yang sign. With pandas it is necessary to keep the male and the female apart except for the mating season. For the remainder of the year, though, it is desirable that they have a sense of the other’s presence albeit without actually seeing each other. Thus, the enclosure had to be separated into two areas.
»It is funny what with the masculine and the feminine belonging together and yet being separate. It was just obvious that the enclosure should form the yin-yang duality,« says architect Bjarke Ingels.
»I don’t think we can imagine how much it means to the Chinese to see the yin/yang incorporated into the concept. The two symbols are black and white as are the pandas. In my opinion it will be the most aesthetic and beautiful panda enclosure in the world,« says CEO of Copenhagen Zoo, Steffen Stræde. His main task remaining will be to find the DKK 125-150M ($ 18-22M, £ 15-18M) the facility is likely to cost.
Architect Bjarke Ingels stresses, that his studio has been keenly aware of the audience sitting in the adjourning café; they should be made to feel that they too are close to the animals:
»You’ll be sitting with the elephants on one side and the pandas on the other. Furthermore, we have lowered the floor level to ensure that children as well as adults will come eye to eye with the animals.«
A positive surprise has been the realization that the Danish climate is perfectly suited for the Chinese pandas. Actually, the best suited climate of the 17 places around the world that now houses pandas in zoos.
The new panda enclosure is expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2018.