Noticias de Arquitectura

Deconstructing the Bird’s Nest
septiembre 1, 2008, 3:55 am
Filed under: China, Herzog and de Meuron

The inspiration behind its design
By Brooke Eaton
Posted Friday, August 22, 2008 7:10 AM ET

In 2002, the Chinese commissioned Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron to create an iconic building that would house the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Games. And with such a structure being the first image stamped in the minds of millions as they turn on their televisions, there was no question it needed to make a statement.

Herzog and de Meuron responded loudly and boldly. Inspired by the aesthetic of cracked glaze of Chinese ceramics, the design was meant to evoke notions of Chinese culture. But ironically, it was the Chinese public who gave the building its household name: “The Bird’s Nest.”
“It’s not so much a landmark of the past, but rather the Bird’s Nest signifies the future,” said Harvard University Professor Eugene Wang.
Olympic Zone
“It’s not so much a landmark of the past, but rather the Bird’s Nest signifies the future,” said Harvard University Professor Eugene Wang.

As the world has turned its eyes to China’s capital, the 423 million dollar stadium has become a symbol of the Beijing Games. With the weight of the Olympic ideal resting on its beams, the Bird’s Nest, in its form as well as its function, evokes a new Chinese spirit that the Olympics has spearheaded.

The porous structure, which seats 91,000 people, suggests transparency, while its steel latticework reinforces the notion of strength. “The idea of openness did not seem to get lost on Chinese spectators,” said Eugene Wang, a professor of Chinese Art History at Harvard University. “Now the country is opened up, made more susceptible to modernization. It’s no longer this old, walled city.”

With spaces like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City that have for so long been preeminent features of Beijing’s urban identity, the Bird’s Nest and other Olympic structures have created a new feel. “Beijing has changed so much,” said Delin Lai, a native of Beijing who now works as a professor of Architectural History at the University of Louisville. “Undoubtedly, the design demonstrates the desire of the Chinese government to portray the open image of contemporary China — a country that would actively join the international community and confidently accept global culture.”

And while comparing a 42,000-ton structure to the likes of a nest that rests tentatively in a tree, the comparison is far from inaccurate. “It suggests certain upward aspirations,” Wang said. “The use of the word ‘bird’ suggests flying, loftiness. It speaks to the Chinese at this time of anxiety and eagerness to take off.”

And the Chinese, who must live with the structure beyond the snuffing of the torch, have responded positively. “The residents of Beijing take pride in it as cutting edge, world architecture,” Wang said. “That structure is one of a kind.”

With a facade that seems outrageous and unlike any stadium built before, its message extends beyond its own walls. “The relationship it has with other structures gives it a Chinese characteristic, so from this perspective it is successful,” Lai said.

Just across the street is the National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube, built by the Australian firm PTW + CCDI + Arup. In direct contrast to the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube is a solid, square form. Referencing “duilian” principles, or antithetical couplets in Chinese poetry, Lai explained how the relationship between the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube contributes to a comprehensive encapsulation of the Chinese essence on the Olympic Green. “One uses steel, the other plastic; one is heavy, the other light. Other contrasts include masculinity and femininity, perforation and solidity, movement and static. Most important are the circle and square, which symbolized heaven and earth in traditional Chinese cosmology.”

Wang emphasizes the building as a symbol of change: “It redefines the culture of the city. There is really a sense of expanded, new Beijing.”

At this important turning point for the Chinese people, where they hope to be introduced to the world in somewhat of a new light, the Olympic Games has given them quite a stage. However, with the 17 days almost up, that stage will soon go dark. But what remains, after competition is over and the world’s focus is elsewhere, is a building that has captured an Olympic spirit and redefined an urban landscape — a permanent reminder of the future it represents.


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