To celebrate the imminent arrival of two giant pandas, the Copenhagen Zoo commissioned one of the Netherlands' most celebrated architects to build a stunning yin yang-shaped habitat. Today Bjarke Ingels Group, the firm behind major institutions like Two World Trade Center and Dubai's upcoming Hyperloop, announced the stunning design rooted in Chinese symbolism and panda psychology.
The circular, 2,450 square meter enclosure offers a 360° view of the pandas, including through massive windows inside an adjacent restaurant. In a statement, Ingels explains how BIG marries the concept of yin and yang with the practical needs of the black-and-white mammals. "Architecture is like portraiture. To design a home for someone is like capturing their essence, their character and personality in built form. In the case of the two great Pandas, their unique solitary nature requires two similar but separate habitats—one for her and one for him," he explains. "The habitat is formed like a giant yin and yang symbol, two halves: the male and the female, complete each other to form a single circular whole. The curvy lines are undulating in section to create the necessary separation between him and her—as well as between them and us."
The pandas are being loaned to the zoo as a gift from the Chinese government in response to the Queen of Denmark's 2014 visit to the country. While pandas have been thought of as endangered for years, they were recently downgraded to vulnerable thanks largely to Chinese researchers' breakthroughs in breeding them in captivity (as documented by National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale). Pandas are still relatively rare in European zoos, and Copenhagen Zoo hasn't hosted one since Chi Chi the Panda's brief stint on a 1958 tour.
Construction for BIG's panda enclosure is scheduled to begin in November, once roughly 125-150 million Danish kroner ($18-22 million) has been raised to fund the demolition of the defunct Elephant House and construction of the Panda House.
Check out concept imagery of the Panda House, complete with adorable digital pandas, below.