Architecture for animals: HASSELL’s Giant Panda enclosure

Feb 10, 2010
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Photography by Peter Bennetts

HASSELL’s bespoke 3,000sqm Giant Panda enclosure is part of a $33 million renovation at Adelaide Zoo.

The enclosure, which cost $8 million to build, includes a large landscaped area that mimicks the pandas’ natural habitat, a sheltered viewing terrace with unrestricted views for visitors, and also provides research and education facilities for the vets, trainers and zookeepers.

The large-scale exhibit incorporates several areas for the Giant Pandas and other species. The pandas have access to two 600sqm outdoor areas within the enclosure, and air-conditioned rooms placed in front of a large stone wall.

A sheltered viewing terrace with capacity for large crowds includes a giant bamboo canopy, while large sliding panels made from bamboo – each weighing 500km– can be used as screens within the enclosure, providing privacy and shade for the pandas when necessary.

A clear, glazed spine runs through the enclosure, giving visitors unrestricted views of staff interacting with the animals. Two barriers sit between the enclosure and the visitor area: a frameless 1m-high glass wall, and a timber-framed balustrade. As well as ensuring clear views into the enclosure, the glass also meets acoustic and thermal requirements, protecting the animals from the noise of the visitor area and keeping the interior cool.

Timothy Horton from HASSELL says the project was guided by collaboration with stakeholders and a study tour in the US to understand the specific requirements of the brief. Horton stresses the importance of creating an “immersive landscape experience,” with a stimulating environment including streams, trees, caves and rocks with built-in refrigeration that can be chilled to 12 degrees on hot days.

Horton says the modern research-based facility draws on Chinese design elements: “We have placed the Pandas in an Australian context, however both the climate and enclosure reinterprets Chinese architecture and landscape design through a modern idiom.”

_For the Giant panda Bamboo Forest at Adelaide Zoo, HASSELL worked with Construction Glazing, Kingswood Aluminium, BESTEC, Wallbridge & Gilbert, SONUS, Viridian and Chevron Glass._

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