Want to spend your recreation time with a bunch of slow-moving, bamboo chewing, black and white 'fluff-balls' from the wilds of China? Who wouldn’t, right! Thanks to a new panda reserve being built in the province of Chengdu, you will soon be able to view the cuddly giants up close and personal.
Plans for the Chengdu Panda Reserve by global design studio Sasaki illustrate a sanctuary for the global favourites of the animal world, while also accommodating growth in the rapidly expanding city of Chengdu – the capital of Sichuan Province in southern China.
The winner of a government-sponsored design competition, the Sasaki design is for a 69-square-kilometre panda reserve that aims to demonstrate that pandas and humans can coexists harmoniously and help protect a dwindling population. There are presently around 1800 giant pandas in the wild, with another 300 in captivity.
"Although urbanisation and conservation are often in conflict with each other, the Chengdu Panda Reserve provides a framework for the protection of the giant panda and its native habitat, and strategies, which will lead Chengdu into a more resilient future,” claims Sasaki.
"The Panda Reserve will organically combine the ecological and cultural value of giant pandas with the beautiful and habitable park city of Chengdu, and it meets the national, provincial and municipal planning and development objectives."
Designed around three main goals – conservation, education and research - the panda reserve comprises three contained sites, each with a different focus and level of panda interaction.
The design team explains their plans for three distinct panda destinations will work in conjunction with a digital app – Panda Quest – that will expand the reserve’s panda experience to a global level.
Originally opened in 1987, the existing Chengdu Panda Base will form the centrepiece of the new design. Currently drawing in over three million visitors a year, the new design will expand the site to three times its size and will continue to serve as the panda breeding facility.
The most extensive of the new sites will be Beihu Panda Park. Located near downtown Chengdu, this site will have an education centre, botanical gardens, wetlands and a sports park. An expanded public transit system will also be constructed, to accommodate the additional influx of visitors expected to the park.
"Three additional metro lines and six new metro stations are proposed around the Beihu Panda Park, which will not only impact how visitors arrive to this part of the reserve, but also how urban development around these stations are built," claims Sasaki principal Tao Zhang.
Located near Chengdu’s new airport, the second proposed site is Longquanshan Panda Village, which will offer programming related to the region's culture and wildlife, including the giant panda.
Rounding out the reserve is Dujiangyan Panda Wilderness, the most remote of the three sites. Located at the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau, the remote wilderness of Dujiangyan will aid researchers to focus on breeding techniques and the release of captive pandas into the wild.
Over 20 million people are expected to visit the Chengdu Panda Reserve each year. "This comprehensive vision will take time to be realised," said Sasaki. "With a 69-square-kilometre site, full build-out is likely to be phased over the next part of a decade or more."
The Ghengdu Panda Reserve project is a response to the Chinese government’s announcement in 2017 of their plans to create a giant panda national park, which will be spread across 2.7 million hectares over three provinces - Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.