Olympic Stadium Beijing - "Bird's Nest" photos

    My first post from China should be of something more traditional, such as the gardens and pavilions I saw at Suzhou


    but I'm just back from visiting the new National Stadium (for the upcoming Olympics) in Beijing by Herzog and de Meuron, called "The Bird's Nest," and I couldn't be more jazzed.

    First, a little background. Knowing I was coming here I emailed the architects and everyone I know who works for them or used to. No luck. I was told that after the recent Tibet troubles that the stadium was closed and no one could possibly get in.

    Two days before leaving, I walked into the Chauhaus, the cafeteria at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and who should I see but the men themselves. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the architects of the "Bird's Nest." I postponed packing and sat in on their design studio critique (a project on Nairobi) for two days. At the end I told them that I was leaving the next day for China and I absolutely had to see their stadium. "No chance" they told me. "Locked down. By the state. We can't even get in," they told me dejectedly. Well, Herzog told me, because de Meuron doesn't speak much. Not even in the studio crit.

    I kept writing emails and finally, yesterday, I received this response

    Dear Mr. Lifson

    I am the assistant of Dr. Wu. He is on business travel and I will arrange your lovely trip in Beijing. Actually, one open athlete games named “Good Luck Beijing” is being held at China National Stadium (Bird’s Nest). ... This game may be the only chance you can enter into the stadium because all the facilities remain in testing phase. So it will be closed after this Sunday. If you have any problem, please contact me. I will try my best to give you my favors.

    Of course I went to this pre-Olympic test of the stadium, and here's what I saw:




    I love this detail, the glass side panels along the walkways are designed with the Bird's Nest motif to mirror the structure.

    I emailed Herzog and de Meuron from inside the stadium, "I got in, it cost me a $5.00 ticket. Just me, and about 30,000 of my closest Beijing buddies."


    Looking up,
    you get a nice feel of being outside, and yet protected. It seems it would not work well in winter, but that depends on the post-Olympic retrofit. It also seems like this stadium could get very hot in summer. Beijing in August can be brutally hot.


    Red everywhere. It's good luck here. Remember , these are the games that will open on 8-8-08 at 8 pm. 8 being a lucky number for the Chinese.

    The interior


    lets the games take over. You hardly notice architecture. The games are the thing. Reminds me of Frank Gehry's rather standard galleries at Bilbao. As they should be. There it's about the art, once you're inside the gallery. Here, it's about the sport. Every seat in this 91,000 (!) seat stadium seems to be a good one. I walked to the very top (though the top seats were not open tonight and that level is not quite finished.) The sight lines and acoustics all over are superb.

    Night was falling, and the nearby National Aquatics Center lit up.


    Those are video screens on those buildings behind it. And the Aquatics Center parking lot has LED lights in the ground that change colors and move! Those lamp posts do too. These are not the only new buildings in China to sport bright red and blue lights.

    The locals I talked to love the Bird's Nest, and many (many!) were taking their pictures with it.


    Outside, it's all designed.



    Gorgeous. Absolutely stunningly gorgeous. No other stadium has ever seduced me. (I do love Wrigley Field, but that's from childhood!)

    Just imagine the fireworks the Chinese will shoot off to open the Olympics. I'll bet it'll be the most spectacular fireworks display ever. And the Chinese will be ready for their games.

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