National Stadium in Beijing

The National Stadium in Beijing is located in the centre of the Olympic complex to the north of the city. In tackling the project, the greatest concern was to deliver a design that would be functional beyond the 2008 Games, and to build a new style of urban location that would attract and generate public life. From a distance the stadium looks like a vessel with a wavy rim, but you can also make out clearly the grid-like structure of its load-bearing frame. This structure not only envelops the building volume, it also seems to penetrate it. As the observer approaches, the clear outline seen from afar divides up into a series of large, individual components, forming what seems to be a chaotic thicket of columns, beams and staircases. This envelope is both structure and ornament, and also a link between the city and the arena. It is a Piranesean space where people meet in bars, restaurants, shops and on viewing platforms. Both autonomous and urban, the place seeks to be more than an Olympic venue for a single, albeit unique occasion. The spatial effect of the stadium is novel and radically different, but it nevertheless possesses an almost archaic immediacy. It seems to be pure structure. The envelope and the frame are one and the same. The individual ­elements support each other and join together to form a 3D grid-like entity into which the facades, staircases, stadium bowl and roof are integrated. The underside of the roof is filled with a light-permeable membrane, to protect against the elements, and clad with acoustic panelling which also serves to conceal the girders. All the facilities are built as separate, self-enclosed volumes, so it was largely possible to do away with a solid, enclosed facade: natural ventilation is the most important aspect in the stadium’s sustainable design. The even bowl-like design of the interior is ­designed to promote an exciting atmosphere where athletes deliver top performances. Altogether, the crowd experience was an important aspect in the architectural ­concept and helped to shape the stadium’s ­final form.
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