Archive for May, 2008

Olympic Stadium Beijing – "Bird’s Nest" photos


My first post from China should be of something more traditional, such as the gardens and pavilions I saw at Suzhou

but I’m just back from visiting the new National Stadium (for the upcoming Olympics) in Beijing by Herzog and de Meuron, called “The Bird’s Nest,” and I couldn’t be more jazzed.

First, a little background. Knowing I was coming here I emailed the architects and everyone I know who works for them or used to. No luck. I was told that after the recent Tibet troubles that the stadium was closed and no one could possibly get in.

Two days before leaving, I walked into the Chauhaus, the cafeteria at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and who should I see but the men themselves. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the architects of the “Bird’s Nest.” I postponed packing and sat in on their design studio critique (a project on Nairobi) for two days. At the end I told them that I was leaving the next day for China and I absolutely had to see their stadium. “No chance” they told me. “Locked down. By the state. We can’t even get in,” they told me dejectedly. Well, Herzog told me, because de Meuron doesn’t speak much. Not even in the studio crit.

I kept writing emails and finally, yesterday, I received this response

Dear Mr. Lifson

I am the assistant of Dr. Wu. He is on business travel and I will arrange your lovely trip in Beijing. Actually, one open athlete games named “Good Luck Beijing” is being held at China National Stadium (Bird’s Nest). … This game may be the only chance you can enter into the stadium because all the facilities remain in testing phase. So it will be closed after this Sunday. If you have any problem, please contact me. I will try my best to give you my favors.

Of course I went to this pre-Olympic test of the stadium, and here’s what I saw:

I love this detail, the glass side panels along the walkways are designed with the Bird’s Nest motif to mirror the structure.

I emailed Herzog and de Meuron from inside the stadium, “I got in, it cost me a $5.00 ticket. Just me, and about 30,000 of my closest Beijing buddies.”

Looking up,
you get a nice feel of being outside, and yet protected. It seems it would not work well in winter, but that depends on the post-Olympic retrofit. It also seems like this stadium could get very hot in summer. Beijing in August can be brutally hot.

Red everywhere. It’s good luck here. Remember , these are the games that will open on 8-8-08 at 8 pm. 8 being a lucky number for the Chinese.

The interior

lets the games take over. You hardly notice architecture. The games are the thing. Reminds me of Frank Gehry’s rather standard galleries at Bilbao. As they should be. There it’s about the art, once you’re inside the gallery. Here, it’s about the sport. Every seat in this 91,000 (!) seat stadium seems to be a good one. I walked to the very top (though the top seats were not open tonight and that level is not quite finished.) The sight lines and acoustics all over are superb.

Night was falling, and the nearby National Aquatics Center lit up.

Those are video screens on those buildings behind it. And the Aquatics Center parking lot has LED lights in the ground that change colors and move! Those lamp posts do too. These are not the only new buildings in China to sport bright red and blue lights.

The locals I talked to love the Bird’s Nest, and many (many!) were taking their pictures with it.

Outside, it’s all designed.

Gorgeous. Absolutely stunningly gorgeous. No other stadium has ever seduced me. (I do love Wrigley Field, but that’s from childhood!)

Just imagine the fireworks the Chinese will shoot off to open the Olympics. I’ll bet it’ll be the most spectacular fireworks display ever. And the Chinese will be ready for their games.

Lifson in China


I’m on my way to China. And Japan. Posting will be sporadic for the next few weeks. After which, I’ll have something to say. I’ll be back just in time to speak at the third SEED conference. Can’t wait. All the info’s right here. I’ll talk mainly about an artist very zen in his approach. Mies van der Rohe.

You want to sign up. Folks already have from as far away as I’m going, from 23 states plus Vienna, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Antwerp, Montevideo, Toronto, Rio de Janiero and Tel Aviv. The confab is just about sold out. I just learned that twelve scholarships are available for creative students to attend SEED 3 for free.

See you then and there. You’ll love it.

Steven Holl – Beijing – Linked Hybrid – videos


Urban porosity, cinema in architecture, green roof gardens, 600 geo-thermal wells, recycled water, zen mounds of earth, extravagant combinations of intense color determined with the I Ching and a “hidden intellectual agenda.” Plus fresh visual perspectives. If this project scared you when you first saw it, watch this. And part 2:


World Architecture Festival


Meet Charles and Ray Eames and their new lounge chair!


Priceless. And the sexism!

The debut of the Eames Lounge Chair on NBC in 1956.

Part 2: Watch them build the Eames Lounge Chair at the the end.

So down to earth.

The host, Arlene Francis quotes:

“Eames’ desire to move freely in a world of enormous and unlimited possibilities is combined with a very accurate sense of discrimination and taste, which of course we always see. This is an ability to select among the unlimited possibilities and return considerable richness to the world.”

I remember the first time I went to New York I saw Arlene Francis. I was amazed at the glamor with which she carried herself. She was dressed in the latest yet timeless fashion; I remember more necklace than I’d ever seen before, or what was there was very good. Her every hair held fast where it belonged and seemed like it always would, in public. Her half-from-within, half-affixed smile showed more confidence than I’d ever seen in the Midwest. She was only hailing a cab, but I was about eleven, and it was Park Avenue, near Lever House, and the Seagram Building.

Connecting heaven and earth


Eero Saarinen’s non-denominational Chapel at MIT

The ‘piccolo Pantheon’ of Cambridge.

If you visit Boston this week for the AIA convention and you find you need “a place of mystic quiet,” here you are.

"A declaration of war on automobiles"


Well it’s about time.

Renzo Piano’s bridge between Chicago’s Millennium Park and Piano’s new Art Institute building


That’s Piano’s building on the far left, the new Modern Wing, with the “flying carpet” roof slightly in view. Millennium Park is on the right.

The views should be great, as you rise through the trees of Millennium Park, look over Michigan Avenue, and out at Grant Park and Lake Michigan. It’ll be nice to get new vantage points from a new outdoor level, in a city of unrelenting flatness.

But I still say, close Monroe Street and truly connect the art to the park.

Does anyone have other photos or videos of the pedestrian bridge that went up this weekend?

The completed Nichols Bridgeway will span some 620 feet.

Photo by Al Podgorski/Chicago Sun-Times

Which is not by Daniel Libeskind?


Top – Royal Ontario Museum Chandelier, Toronto, Canada. Designed by Daniel Libeskind and donated by Swarovski, the Spirit House Chandelier will be installed on the staircase between the Level 4 Institute for Contemporary Culture Gallery and the Level 5 Crystal Five Restaurant Lounge.

Bottom – The “Swimming Around In Circles” aquarium by Design Studio Forever.

images via C-Monster

More info and pix of Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum

Preston Scott Cohen is the new Chair of the Architecture Department at Harvard

Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi (l)
and new Chair of Architecture Preston Scott Cohen (r)

Cohen teaches at Harvard. His Cambridge-based firm has designed work ranging from domestic and commercial interiors to a new building for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

His interests include complex geometries and complex spatial configurations.

Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “Lightfall”

Cohen – true to form – began his “thank you” speech by saying,

“This is a great moment, I think, in the history of the school…”

Everybody laughed. Especially the students. He clarified by saying he meant the still-new Dean Mohsen Mostafavi is bringing something extraordinary to the school.

Cohen will begin in the position on July 1. He succeeds Toshiko Mori, who has chaired the department for the past six years. She was well-liked by students and was highly praised today. Mori will take a year off from the Graduate School of Design.