HASSELL: At a time when we face significant environmental challenges, including loss of biodiversity, Zoos SA, with the help of HASSELL, has stepped up to become a global leader in its key focus areas of conservation, education, research and environment. In 2007, the Adelaide Zoo in South Australia entered into a co-operative conservation agreement with the Chinese Government entrusting the Zoo with the care of two giant pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, for a period of ten years. The anticipated arrival of the giant pandas was the catalyst for significant physical and cultural change at the Zoo.
To cater for the pandas and the expected increase in visitors, HASSELL worked with Zoos SA to design a new entrance precinct and Australia’s first giant panda forest. The significant civic space created has reinvigorated this much loved, yet previously under-utilised, city institution. The new integrated design actively engages the community. Dispensing with the traditional boundary between the Zoo and its surrounds, the new entrance invites visitors to view the sights and sounds of the Zoo from the public forecourts. A series of interlinked forecourts unfold over 2,000 square metres to create a natural transition and physical connection between the road, parklands and waterways. These new links through the forecourts provide access to cafes and exhibitions via safe, lit pathways, and remediate a once unsafe part of Botanic Park – demonstrating the transformative capacity of urban design to promote safe, healthy and liveable cities.
The commitment to transparency and openness continues within the Giant Panda Forest where a central glazed axis provides public views of research, food preparation and holding facilities. The sheltered public viewing terrace incorporates a large under-slung bamboo canopy and sliding screens to accommodate crowds and manage privacy.
Understanding the behavioural characteristics of the giant pandas was critical to designing an immersive environment that allows the animals to behave as they would in the wild within their 3,000 square metre enclosure. At the project’s inception, HASSELL joined Zoos SA on a study tour, visiting four of the world’s seven existing giant panda exhibits.
The resulting landscape responds to the pandas’ native Chinese heritage within an Australian context. A range of design features have been used to enrich the environment, particularly focusing on climate control. Chilled rocks, streams and waterfalls for bathing, mature shade trees for climbing, and glass reinforced concrete caves for shade and shelter create a comfortable and stimulating environment for the animals.
The new exhibit is integrated with the existing path network of the Zoo, providing an accessible and attractive journey through the enclosure. Seating, shade trees and pavilions provide opportunities to contemplate the environment, implicitly reinforcing conservation messages.
In addition to the wildlife conservation objectives, the Zoo also aspired to demonstrate sustainable environmental outcomes within the built environment. The Zoo boasts Australia’s first purpose-designed green roof to support a wildlife shelter and extensive living walls of native plants, making it a significant horticultural park and research centre as well as a world class zoo. Supporting the project goal to ensure there was no net-loss of habitat, the living walls showcase plant species that are indigenous to the Adelaide Plains and demonstrate the Zoo’s place as a significant horticultural – as well as zoological – park.
These ‘living’ landscape elements will evolve to suit climatic and growing conditions in accordance with the normal life cycle of plant species – changing the character of the Entrance Precinct over time. Ongoing research, testing and prototyping is being undertaken to encourage native species to inhabit the precinct.
The Adelaide Zoo is now celebrated for its design, sustainability, innovation and for its integration with the surrounds. It has received numerous industry awards and a significant increase in visitors since the giant pandas arrival to their new home.
Landscape Architecture: HASSELL
Location: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Completion date: 2009
Area: 5,150 sqm
Client: Zoos SA
Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture: HASSELL
Project Manager: Arup
Access Consultant: Disability Consultancy Services
Acoustic Consultant: Sonus
Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer: Wallbridge & Gilbert
Environmental Consultant, Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Hydraulic Engineer, Fire Consultant: Bestec
Main Contractor: Hindmarsh
Graphic Designer: HASSELL
Green Roof and Walls: Planning SA
Horticulture: Zoos SA, HASSELL
Quantity Surveyor: Rider Levett Bucknall
Zoo Exhibit Specialist: Jon Coe Design
Photography: Peter Bennetts / Ben Wrigley