After featuring the stunning “bubble building” being built for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, we felt it necessary to mention an equally-awesome structure under construction just across the way. Herzog and DeMeuron’s Olympic Stadium, fondly referred to by some as the “Bird’s Nest,” is a feat of engineering, an aesthetic marvel, and an uber-green machine to boot. What we love most about the stadium’s design is its integration of a myriad complex systems all rolled into such an aesthetically and conceptually simple and stunning object. The Swiss architects describe it best, saying, “The spatial effect of the stadium is novel and radical and yet simple and of an almost archaic immediacy. Its appearance is pure structure. Facade and structure are identical.”
The structure itself is composed of a grid-like formation that serves as both structure and facade, integrating the stairs, walls, and roof into one cohesive system. Instead of form being dictated by function, Herzog and DeMeuron’s design effectively removes the distinction, making function and form one in the same.
Such a large-scale and highly-trafficked building raises questions of waste, efficiency, and cost, but the “Bird’s Nest” seems to pose innovative, green solutions to a variety of potential building issues. Its green features include a rainwater collection system, a translucent roof that provides essential sunlight for the grass below, and a natural, passive ventilation system.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the structure is its “cushion” system which strategically fills the spaces within the building’s facade to regulate wind, weather, and sunlight. On the rooftop, the inflatable cushions fill gaps to weather- and waterproof the stadium. “Just as birds stuff the spaces between the woven twigs of their nests with a soft filler, the spaces in the structure of the stadium will be filled with inflated cushions.” Coincidentally, the cushions will be made from ETFE, the same material used to create the translucency of the “bubble building” across the Olympic park.
Sculptural rather than an architectural sensory overload like many a contemporary stadium, “it meets all the functional and technical requirements of an Olympic National Stadium, but without communicating the insistent sameness of technocratic architecture dominated by large spans and digital screens.”
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