Celebrating 15 years of conservation: Adelaide Zoo Giant Panda Forest and Entrance Pavilion

This year, our design for the Giant Panda Forest and Entrance Pavilion at Adelaide Zoo on Kaurna Country in South Australia marks its 15th anniversary. 

Home to Australia’s only pair of breeding giant pandas, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, the giant panda exhibit continues to support Adelaide Zoo’s mission to connect people with nature and save animals from extinction.


Adelaide Zoo, owned and operated by not-for-profit conservation charity Zoos South Australia (Zoos SA), is one of a handful of accredited zoos worldwide working with China as part of a global breeding, research and conservation program to help save the endangered giant panda species.

In 2007, Adelaide Zoo engaged Hassell to provide a framework plan, which identified important strategic moves for the zoo’s development over time. This included opening up the zoo’s formerly rigid boundaries to better connect to its parkland environs and work to cater to increased visitor numbers.

Not surprisingly, [the design] is well-considered, well-detailed and well-funded. It captures the zoo’s message of animal welfare and biodiversity, while providing a satisfying viewing experience for the paying public.”

— ArchitectureAU

Completed in 2009, Hassell worked closely with the Adelaide Zoo to deliver the Giant Panda Forest and Entrance Precinct, designed around their core principles at the time of conservation, environment, education and research.

Wang Wang and Fu Ni arrived at Adelaide Zoo ─ which is Australia’s second oldest zoo and the country’s only metropolitan zoo run by a not-for-profit organisation ─ in November 2009 on a 10-year loan’ from the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA). The loan was extended for a further five years in 2019.


With a focus on transparency and openness, the Adelaide Zoo’s Entrance Pavilion was designed to allow visitors to view the sights and sounds of the zoo and its residents up close. 

The project saw the removal of the traditional boundaries between the zoo and its surrounds through a series of interlinked public forecourts, which unfold over 2,000 sqm. 

This created a natural transition and physical connection between the surrounding road, parklands and waterways while also providing easy access to the zoo’s cafes, exhibits and the neighbouring Botanic Park. The design also included Australia’s first purpose-designed green roof’ to support wildlife shelter and extensive living walls’ of native plants indigenous to the Adelaide Plains.


In the early stages of the design process, Hassell ─ alongside members of the Adelaide Zoo team ─ visited four of seven existing giant panda exhibits around the world. Understanding the behavioural characteristics of the giant pandas was critical to designing an immersive environment that allowed the animals to behave as they would in the wild within their 3,000 sqm enclosure.

The resulting architecture and landscape respond to the pandas’ native Chinese heritage within an Australian context. A series of pavilions’ in the landscape frame a changing relationship between the public and the giant pandas and provide alternating views of landscape, animal behaviour and habitat.


Today, in addition to Wang Wang and Fu Ni, the Giant Panda Forest is also home to two resident red pandas, Ravi and Mishry, an endangered species native to the eastern Himalayas in China, Nepal and Bhutan.

In 2009, our design of the Giant Panda Forest and Entrance Pavilion helped to reposition the Adelaide Zoo as a contemporary conservation organisation with vital breeding and research programs ─ important work the Adelaide Zoo continues to undertake today.

Image, top: Ben Wrigley


April 16, 2024

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