International design firm Sasaki has been selected to develop a master plan for the Chengdu Panda Capital. Chengdu is also the human capital of China’s Sichuan province, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country, and the only native habitat of the giant panda. The city government recognizes its responsibility as steward of this vulnerable species and, in June of last year, called for submissions to expand its panda research and tourism facilities. Sasaki beat out 98 other contenders with a plan that balances smart urbanism and thoughtful conservation.

Masterplan for the Chengdu Panda Capital by Sasaki

Masterplan for the Chengdu Panda Capital by Sasaki (Courtesy Sasaki)

The masterplan is spread across three sites, each playing a different role in the panda conservation effort. Longquanshan Panda Village, located near the airport, will be focused on education. Visitors there will be introduced to the region’s history, culture, and dedication to conservation. Panda Park, in Beihu, is the closest to downtown Chengdu and reachable by mass transit. Here, panda tourists will learn more about the panda and its habitat at a new visitor center. The primary research center and gateway to the giant panda preserve is outside the city in Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where conservators breed and prepare pandas to enter the wild.

Masterplan for the Chengdu Panda Capital by Sasaki

The complex aims to balance conservation and education. (Courtesy Sasaki)

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the greatest threats to the giant panda is the tourism and recreation areas, and large-scale infrastructure projects. Tourism, if not properly managed, is a particular concern for the expanded capital, which is anticipated to receive 20 million annual visitors— that’s about two million more people per year than Disneyland. This plan involves all those threats, and Sasaki is embracing the challenge. “How do you reconcile human land use and wildlife protection?” asked Sasaki principal Tao Zhang. “With this project, we’re aiming to set a new baseline for how cities can achieve a sustainable model that generates win-wins…through extensive educational and environmental stewardship programs and a fully-integrated design approach.”

The new master plan will help ensure that the city will grow in a sustainable manner while reaffirming its brand as the panda capital of the world and securing a shared future for both of the area’s major species.

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