Beijing’s giant bird’s nest

The bird’s nest is the enigmatic title given to the incredible Beijing Olympic Stadium, built for the 2008 Olympic Games held in China. This complex metal structure contains over 90,000 seats and stands as a symbol of the country’s economic growth.

The building was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron –the same duo responsible for the Allianz Arena– with the support of the Chinese Architecture Design and Research Group.

The design of this magnificent venue, built with metal interlocking strips, bears a striking resemblance to a bird’s nest, hence the name by which it is popularly known. The concept was based on the shape that would result from wrapping a single thread around a ball. A true architectural challenge in metal construction.

With this stadium, China wanted to demonstrate their economic power on the world stage. In fact, built using a total of 110,000 tons of steel, it is the largest structure ever built in this material. The flexibility of the steel also provides the structure with the capacity to adapt to large fluctuations resulting from changes of temperature.

Costing €500 million, the Beijing Olympic Stadium is a 258,000-square-metre space designed as a multiple activity venue during the Olympic Games, in addition to holding the opening and closing ceremonies. The original aim, however, was to also incorporate elements of art and culture, i.e. to act as a space for concerts, exhibitions and other leisure-related activities.

Construction began in 2003 but was halted in 2004 due to the escalating expense involved in the project. A number of changes were subsequently made in order to reduce costs and complete the building in time for the Games. Thus, the planned roof was completely scrapped, bringing the amount of steel needed down by 22%. According to experts, these cost-cutting measures had the additional effect of making the stadium safer in terms of being able to withstand earthquakes.

The stadium was officially opened on 18 April 2008, although it was not until May that all the work was finally completed.

With the Games a distant memory, the stadium now serves as a venue for sporting and cultural events in the country. Rest and leisure areas have therefore been created to complement this latest reincarnation, with expansive spaces equipped with a variety of refreshment points, as well as shops, restaurants, cinemas, a fitness centre and parking areas.

Photo: Hong Jiang from Unsplash



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