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Three question for… Anna Buttkus

Why the Panda garden is a real jewel of a project unveils our project manager Anna Buttkus

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Anna, you’re a project manager at dan pearlman. What do you like about your job?
The complexity. Designing not only for people but also for animals in particular is an interesting task. Their physiognomy alone but also their requirements have a significant impact on the architectural design. The needs of a giraffe are different than those of a meerkat, which affects what the structure looks like. In addition, we’re always designing outdoor enclosures and the projects often have educational aspects. The work is interdisciplinary and as a project manager it’s my job to coordinate everything, to mediate between those involved, to oversee schedules and budgets – I enjoy it. I also like the people at dan pearlman. I’ve been here for fifteen years and also have an influence on life at the office.

You’re responsible for overseeing the new panda facility at the Berlin Zoo, which you once called a real jewel of a project. What makes it so special?
For one thing, the location of the site makes it unique. The new panda complex is at the centre of the zoo, right on the main axis. Designing and building in such a prominent location is great.
On the other hand, our design interpretation for the pavilion is modern. The complex reads as a single unit, but there’s actually a covered visitor’s plaza located in front of the building housing the pens and caretaker areas. We’ve designed a contemporary structure that’s neither concealed nor imposing. Often our job is to make the buildings disappear or merge with the environment. By contrast, the panda house at the Berlin Zoo is classical architecture.
What’s more, pandas are not only rare in nature but also in zoos around the world. The bears are currently seen in only fourteen zoological institutions outside China – if our researcher counted correctly. The chance to design a facility as well as a building for showcasing these special animals is really rare.

The topping-out ceremony was celebrated yesterday. What challenges have already been overcome and what things will be particularly exciting up to the opening?
The extremely tight planning timetable was one of the biggest challenges in the first half of the project. Because of the overlapping work phases we had to finish the design on time, put out a call for tenders ahead of schedule and start with the construction as quickly as possible. This necessitated getting different departments involved from the very beginning, and, together with the zoo, we managed to obtain a building permit within two months.
The construction phase is also extremely tight. We had to find construction companies capable of managing the project within the timeframe and working together with us to organizing all processes on the construction site. The construction phase is very exciting. The questions facing us from the very beginning have been: Can we do this? Is everything proceeding as planned? How hard or long will the winter be?
All project participants have pulled together and so far we’re on track.
It will also be exciting, for example, to see whether the exposed concrete roof of the visitor’s plaza looks as we imagined or how the Chinese pavilion works visually from the Elephant Gate.