Page B1.1 . 20 August 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Beijing Bird's Nest - Architecture

by Brian Libby

This is the first part of a two-part series about Beijing National Stadium. Part one looks at the stadium from the architects' perspective, part two from the engineers'.

In the weeks and months leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese government faced a range of complications, from polluted skies to Tibet protests.

But one thing has seemed clear all along, even before what may have been the most dramatic and ambitious opening ceremony in Olympic history: the design of Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, is of gold-medal caliber.

Designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with Chinese artist and architect Ai Weiwei, the stadium's outer ribbons of structural steel resemble the woven twigs of a bird's nest.

Choosing the right symbols in China can be tricky for Western architects. In the competition for the stadium commission, Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel's proposal included a curving green roof that resembled a tortoise shell — which in this ancient country traditionally symbolizes marital infidelity.

A bird's nest, however, often represents the launch of a phoenix, bringing redemption. And for a rising power like China — whose history, despite the nation's colossal population and size, includes numerous foreign invasions — that kind of signal is no accident.   >>>

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Beijing National Stadium was designed by Herzog & de Meuron with Chinese architect Ai Weiwei.
Photo: Ben McMillan Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

The stadium stands on the Olympic Green in Beijing, China, adjacent to the National Aquatics Center, or "Water Cube."
Photo: Ben McMillan Extra Large Image


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