Herzog & de Meuron
Competition
2002–2003
Project
2003–2005
Realization
2003–2008

The National Stadium, a New Kind of Public Space for Beijing

The National Stadium is situated on a gentle rise in the centre of the Olympic complex to the north of Beijing. Its location is predefined by the master plan. All other urban and architectural decisions were initiated by our competition project and subsequently implemented in our construction project. Our most important principle throughout has been to develop an architecture that will continue to be functional following the Games in 2008, in other words, to create a new kind of urban site that will attract and generate public life in this part of Beijing. Significantly, the Chinese themselves nicknamed the stadium “Bird‘s Nest” in the very early stages of the project, thereby essentially assimilating it as their own, before it had even left the drawing board.

From the distance, the stadium looks like a gigantic collective shape, like a vessel whose undulating rim echoes the rising and falling ramps for spectators inside the stadium. From this distant perspective, one can clearly distinguish not only the rounded shape of the building but also the grid of the load-bearing structure, which encases the building, but also appears to penetrate it. What is seen from afar as a geometrically clear-cut and rational overall configuration of lines, evaporates the closer one comes, finally separating into huge separate components. The components look like a chaotic thicket of supports, beams and stairs, almost like an artificial forest.

In this Piranesian space, people get together in restaurants, bars, hotels and shops, or on the platforms and the crisscrossing horizontal, diagonal and vertical paths of access. This space, surrounding the interior of the stadium, is façade, structure, decoration and public space all in one. It is the link between the city outside and the interior of the stadium and is, at the same time, an autonomous, urban site. Herein lays the real potential of the project; it aims to be more than an Olympic sports arena for one single, admittedly unique occasion. This area between inside and outside affords the opportunity to create a new kind of urban and public place – even more so in view of the fact that people in Beijing love public life and are experienced users of public space. Sports, games, later rock concerts and other activities will, of course, dominate the use of the interior, while the new park on the plinth will invite people to stop a while and relax; the really novel feature of the project is clearly the transitional space between interior and exterior. This is the space that will inspire people to move about, to be together and to enjoy each other’s company.

The Plinth

The geometries of the plinth and stadium merge into one element, like a tree and its roots. Pedestrians flow on a lattice of smooth slate walkways that extend from the structure of the stadium. The spaces between walkways provide amenities for the stadium visitor: sunken gardens, stone squares, bamboo groves, mineral hill landscapes, and openings into the plinth itself. Gently, almost imperceptibly, the ground of the city rises and forms a plinth for the stadium. The entrance to the stadium is therefore slightly raised, providing a panorama of the entire Olympic complex.

Structure = Façade = Roof = Space

The spatial effect of the stadium is novel and radical, and yet simple and of an almost archaic immediacy. Its appearance is pure structure. Façade and structure are identical. The structural elements mutually support each other and converge into a spatial grid-like formation, in which façades, stairs, bowl structure and roof are integrated. To make the roof weatherproof, the spaces in the structure of the stadium are filled with a translucent membrane, just as birds stuff the spaces between the woven twigs of their nests with soft filler. Since all of the facilities – restaurants, suites, shops and restrooms – are self-contained units, it is largely possible to do without a solid, enclosed façade. This allows natural ventilation of the stadium, which is the most important aspect of the stadium’s sustainable design.

The Bowl

The stadium is conceived as a large collective vessel, which makes a distinctive and unmistakable impression both when it is seen from a distance and from close up. Inside the stadium, an evenly constructed bowl-like shape serves to generate crowd excitement and drive athletes to outstanding performances. To create a smooth and homogeneous appearance, the stands have minimal interruption and the acoustic ceiling hides the structure in order to focus attention on the spectators and the events on the field. The human crowd forms the architecture.

Herzog & de Meuron, 2007

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Process

The stadium is located on Beijing’s main north-south axis and is conceived as a public space that the population can use for the type of leisure activities that they already pursue in public parks. The city will gain a new landmark and meeting place, comparable to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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The overall form is developed as an almost round bowl with an ascending and descending rim, which not only embraces the central events in its midst but also engages with objects from Chinese cultural history.

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The extensive roof support system is designed as a mesh of columns and vertical and diagonal braces; it both obeys strict structural requirements and makes an architectural statement.

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The support structure is developed as an open space between the city and the stadium bowl on the basis of models made using both analog and computer-assisted methods.

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Twenty-four trussed columns placed at regular intervals around the stadium redistribute weight from the roof and from the from the concourses containing the entrances and exits that control the flow of visitors.

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The transfer of loads requires a large number of specific nodal points where beams and columns or stairs intersect.

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Preparatory workshops in Basel and Beijing. Official foundation stone ceremony at Christmas 2003.

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1:1 mock-ups and prototypes for complex connections between supports and beams. The areas between the beams are sealed with a translucent membrane.

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Construction of the stadium shell from huge prefabricated steel units combining facade, roof, and internal spaces.

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Construction of the stadium, progressing from an empty site to a symbolic urban landmark.

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The structure of the outer basket, the stairs, and the stadium bowl takes the form of a structural grid in which individual elements support each other.

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Creating lighting for the landscaped site and for external areas from numerous individual lamps.

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The choice not to create a closed facade for the stadium shell means that the public areas benefit from natural ventilation.

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External and internal spaces flow into each other, emphasizing the public nature of these areas and inviting people to use them for social and private occasions.

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Thanks to the harmonious and restrained design of the roof and the tiered stands, the stadium works as a coherent spatial body that comes to life through its visitors and a wide variety of sporting events.

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The local population nicknamed the stadium the “Bird’s Nest” early on, making it their own and incorporating it into the daily life of the city as a cultural center and tourist attraction.

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Drawings

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Team

Facts

In Collaboration With
Chinese Artist and Curator, Artistic Advisor: Ai Weiwei, Beijing, China;
Client
National Stadium Co. Ldt, Beijing, China
Planning
General Planning (Competition): Design Consortium: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland; Arup, London, UK; China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
General Planning: Design Consortium: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland; Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China; China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Architect Planning: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Architect Construction: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Electrical Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Electrical Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
HVAC Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
HVAC Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Plumbing Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Plumbing Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Mechanincal Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Mechanical Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China;
Structural Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Structural Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Landscape Design: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Landscape Design: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Specialist / Consulting
Sports Consultant (Competition): Arup Sport, London, UK
Acoustic Consulting: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Acoustic Consulting: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Building Physics Consulting: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Building Physics Consulting: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
3D Visualisation: Artefactory, Paris, France (3D-modeling and computer renderings)
Fire Protection Consulting: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Fire Protection Consulting: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Lighting Consulting: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Lighting Consulting: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Civil Engineering: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Traffic Consulting: China Architectural Design & Research Group, Beijing, China
Cladding Design Consulting: R & R Fuchs, Munich, Germany
Geology Consulting: Beijing Survey Design and Research Institute, Beijing, China
Signage Consulting: New Identity Ltd., Basel, Switzerland
Supervisions: CIECC Engineering & Construction Project Management Corp, Beijing, China
Building Data
Site Area: 2'183'995 sqft, 202'900 sqm
Gross floor area (GFA): 2'777'086 sqft, 258'000 sqm
Number of levels: 8

Bibliography

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Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva Monografías. Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2013.
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“National Stadium in Beijing. Herzog & de Meuron. Basel.”
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English ed. Vol. No. 5, Munich, Institut für internationale Architektur-Dokumentation, 09.2008. pp. 483-491.

Ai Weiwei: “Warum das Nationalstadion dem Volk gehören muss.”
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In: Lionel Barber (Ed.). Financial Times Weekend. London, The Financial Times Ltd., 29.12.2007. p. 17.

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Location