China – Beijing – Olympic Venues

– OCTOBER 23, 2015

Today we are making our way out to the site of the Beijing Olympic venues.

The Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, is a stadium in Beijing.  The stadium was designed for use throughout the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics and will be used again in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.  The stadium is currently used mostly for football matches.

Located at the Olympic Green, the stadium cost US$428 million.  The design was awarded to a submission from the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron in April 2003 after a bidding process that included 13 final submissions.  The design, which originated from the study of Chinese ceramics, implemented steel beams in order to hide supports for the retractable roof; giving the stadium the appearance of a bird’s nest.  Chinese artist Ali Weiwei was the artistic consultant on the project.  The retractable roof was later removed from the design after inspiring the stadium’s most recognizable aspect.  Ground was broken on December 24, 2003 and the stadium officially opened on June 28, 2008.  A shopping mall and a hotel are planned to be constructed to increase use of the stadium, which has had trouble attracting events, football and otherwise, after the Olympics.  The stadium location isn’t well suited for regular events, so the local football team has requested to not use this stadium as their home venue.

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

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Beijing National Stadium – the Bird’s Nest

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, also officially known as the Water Cube, is an aquatics center that was built alongside Beijing National Stadium in the Olympic Green for the swimming competitions of the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Despite its nickname, the building is not an actual cube, but a cuboid (a rectangular box).  Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008.  Swimmers at the Water Cube broke 25 world records during the 2008 Olympics.

After the 2008 Olympics, the building underwent a massive renovation to turn half of its interior into a water park.  The building officially reopened on August 8, 2010.  It will host the curling events at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

In July 2003, the Water Cube design was chosen from 10 proposals in an international architectural competition for the aquatic center project.  The Water Cube’s design was initiated by a team effort: the Chinese partners felt a square was more symbolic to Chinese culture and its relationship to the Bird’s Nest stadium, while the Sydney based partners came up with the idea of covering the ‘cube’ with bubbles, symbolising water.  Contextually the cube symbolises earth whilst the circle (represented by the stadium) represents heaven.  Hence symbolically the water cube references Chinese symbolic architecture.

Comprising a steel space frame, it is the largest ETFE clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) in total thickness.  The ETFE cladding allows more light and heat penetration than traditional glass, resulting in a 30% decrease in energy costs.

The outer wall is based on the Weaire-Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural pattern of bubbles in soap lather.  In the true Weaire-Phelan structure the edge of each cell is curved in order to maintain 109.5 degree angles at each vertex, but of course as a structural support system each beam was required to be straight so as to better resist axial compression.  The complex Weaire–Phelan pattern was developed by slicing through bubbles in soap foam, resulting in more irregular, organic patterns than foam bubble structures proposed.  Using the Weaire–Phelan geometry, the Water Cube’s exterior cladding is made of 4,000 ETFE bubbles, some as large as 9.14 metres across, with seven different sizes for the roof and 15 for the walls.

The structure had a capacity of 17,000 people during the games, but that has been reduced to 7,000 people.  It also has a total land surface of 65,000 square meters and will cover a total of 32,000 square metres.  The building’s popularity has spawned many copycat structures throughout China.

The Water Cube will be used for curling during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

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Beijing National Aquatics Center – the Water Cube

These are impressive structures and the comparison of seeing them in the daylight and again in the nighttime can really show the stark contrast between the architectural concept.

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.