No. 394 . 27 August 2008 
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Beijing Bird's Nest - Engineering

by Brian Libby

To get the engineering perspective on Beijing National Stadium, Brian Libby spoke with Steve Burrows, a principal at Arup, the London-based international engineering firm behind the project. Arup has also engineered other landmark projects in Beijing, including the National Aquatics Center ("Water Cube"), the airport's Terminal 3, and CCTV Headquarters. Based in San Francisco, Burrows has been with the company since 1982. Part One of this two-part series on Beijing National Stadium looked at the project from an architecture perspective.

Brian Libby for ArchitectureWeek: How did the National Stadium design process begin for you?

Steve Burrows: My involvement started with the blank sheet of paper in Herzog & de Meuron's office in Basel, with Ai Weiwei and the architects and two or three of us from Arup. Most of our effort in the competition phase was in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. After it was won, our Beijing office set up an expert panel to review the design, because it doesn't comply with any Chinese building code.

The scale was something we really had to keep pinching ourselves about. It's the height of the Eiffel Tower. We actually built a third-scale foamboard mockup of it just so we could get a sense of the scale we were working on. When you're talking that span, it's hard to imagine. Nobody's ever done that before.   >>>

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