The Panda Pavilions

Atelier Ping Jiang / EID Arch


This is a beautiful project in its integration of building form with landscape. The round forms nest in the landscape in a compelling way and speak to the need to value and conserve our natural environments. The jury applauded the efforts towards the protection and rehabilitation of panda populations, and the project’s elevation of the importance of nature in Asian culture. – Jury Comment

The design of the research and educational facility is organized around four open-air circular courtyards, which serve as outdoor playgrounds for the pandas, while providing researchers and visitors with a continuous connection with nature.

Projects that aim to preserve endangered wildlife often involve providing public access to animals in captivity. Not all that long ago, people considered it acceptable to confine beasts in small cages and stare at them from all sides. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen so much anymore. Today the challenge is to provide the animals with as natural, generously sized, and undisturbed an environment as possible, while still allowing humans to get close enough to be captivated by the captives, for that is how we become stakeholders in the survival of a species. The new Panda Pavilions designed for China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (also known as Panda Base) meet this delicate balancing act with insight, ingenuity, and no small amount of poetry.

Inside, the ring-shaped pavilions include observation areas, indoor living quarters for the pandas, administrative offices, and support spaces.

Located in Sichuan Province in a national forest park about 10 km from downtown Chengdu, Panda Base was established in the 1980s by a handful of researcher/preservationists with six rescued giant pandas. Without capturing a single giant panda from the wild, the Base has increased its captive population of the species to well over 200. The centre combines scientific research and panda breeding with public education and environmental tourism, and is a Global 500 of the United Nations Environment Programme destination.

Nestled into the natural topography, the pavilions prioritize the creation of an animal-friendly environment, while also providing outdoor panda-observation platforms for visitors.

A convergence of architecture, landscape, and land art, the four ring-shaped pavilions nestle into park’s woodland slopes, enclosing terraced outdoor space for pandas. Connecting pathways and bermed viewing galleries provide visitors with varied vantage points for observing pandas at relatively close range, but always with physical boundaries separating panda space and human space. Rising above the topography in places and sinking into it in others, the pavilions’ rings house panda indoor activity spaces and living quarters, along with staff administrative areas and support spaces such as rooms for preserving and storing the bamboo shoots that are central to the panda diet.

For the visitors, the project is designed to create an immersive experience of exploration and discovery. As people move through the site, they can enjoy the interaction between the stunning scenery and the gentle dynamism of the pavilions’ looping, cedar-clad forms. Water nozzles producing a fine mist for panda-friendly temperature and humidity will doubtless add to the impression of being in a dreamlike place.

CLIENT Chengdu Tianfu Greenway Construction Investment Co., Ltd. / Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding | ARCHITECT TEAM Ping Jiang, Michelle Bao, Sean Lu, Yunpeng Ma, Shuang Zhang, Chendi He, Di Fan, Xiaoxu Sun | COLLABORATING LOCAL DESIGN INSTITUTE Chengdu Architectural Design & Research Institute | AREA 13,398 M2 | BUDGET $6.5 M (USD) | STATUS Under Construction | ANTICIPATED COMPLETION December 2021