Beijing’s Beaut Birds Nest


Dr Rodgers takes a gander at the auspicious centrepiece of China’s 2008 Olympics


Its image has appeared in newspapers and on television for some years now. Pictures have been seen of its on-again off-again construction.


But for all that, we know relatively little about Beijing’s new National Stadium beyond the fact that it is as innovative as it is amazing. It sure will provide a most auspicious focal point for next year’s Summer Olympics.


It all started back in 2002 when the Chinese Government launched an international competition for a new national stadium to replace Guangdong Stadium as the main track and field venue, as well as the host for the opening and closing ceremonies.


All submissions proved highly original and innovative — have a quick butchers at


The winner was Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with ArupSport, the China Architecture Design & Research Group and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.


The original concept had been that of a simple woven basket. This evolved with the different structural elements of the final design converging in a grid-like appearance that resembles the interwoven twigs of a bird’s nest.


No distinction

No distinction exists between facade and superstructure. The separate elements lend mutual support and synergy, with the final spatial effect being both novel and radical, yet simple and immediate.


Importantly, the structure provides all the requirements of a modern Olympic stadium yet succeeds in escaping that insistent sameness of many of today’s sports venues where terraced stands are dominated by large spans and digital screens.


The gross floor area covers 250,000sq m and is 330m long and 220m across. The final building will be 69.2m tall and contain some 45,000 tonnes of steel. At the height of the games the seating capacity will be 91,000 but this will reduce to 80,000 after the games.


The access concourse is akin to an arcade. It runs full circle around all stands and is, in effect, a covered urban space complete with restaurants and stores. Stairs access three tiers of the stands.


As all the athlete’s suites, restaurants, shops and rest rooms are self-contained units, there is no need for a solid, enclosed facade.


Inflated cushions

Rather, the spaces in the stadium’s structure are to be filled with inflated ETFE cushions for weather protection, in much the same way that birds use soft materials between twigs of their nests.


These cushions allow for natural ventilation of the stadium, an important aspect of the sustainable design.


Ground was broken in December 2003, with construction-proper starting in March 2004. It was abruptly halted in August 2004 when construction costs blew out.


A redesign saw the stadium’s proposed sliding roof shelved, allegedly to make the venue safer, but significantly reducing costs.


It had been intended for this roof to also be stuffed with ETFE cushions to render the entire venue weatherproof. Construction recommenced at the beginning of 2005, with completion scheduled for some time this year.


The main contractor is Beijing Urban Construction Group Co Ltd. Principle subcontractors include Shenyang Yuanda Aluminium Industry Engineering Co Ltd, Changjiang Jinggong Steel Structure Co Ltd, Jiangsu Huning Steel Mechanism Co Ltd, China First Metallurgical Construction Co Ltd and Jiangnan Heavy Industry Holdings Co Ltd.


The only figure on the final cost is the budgeted 3.5 billion yuan (approximately $NZ2 billion).


Trevor Mallard, eat yer heart out. Dr Rodgers takes a gander at the auspicious centrepiece of China’s 2008 Olympics

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