Archive for the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Category

Chinese Capitalists outmaneuver architects!

02/03/2009

Remember when Herzog and de Meuron thought they were being subversive in Beijing? They designed the provocative and hugely successful Olympic Stadium:

Herzog: … Our vision was to create a public space, a space for the public, where social life is possible, where something can happen, something that can, quite deliberately, be subversive or — at least — not easy to control or keep track of.

SPIEGEL: Your architecture as an act of resistance? Aren’t you exaggerating?

Herzog: No. We see the stadium as a type of Trojan horse. We fulfilled the spatial program we were given, but interpreted it in such a way that it can be used in different ways along it perimeters. As a result, we made everyday meeting places possible in locations that are not easily monitored, places with all kinds of niches and smaller segments. In other words, no public parade grounds.

Well now comes word from the Shanghai Daily that

The area around Beijing’s National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest,” will be turned into a shopping and entertainment complex in three to five years.

Plans call for the US$450 million stadium to be the anchor for a complex of shops and entertainment outlets in three to five years, according to the CITIC Group, operator of the stadium, which was the showpiece of the Beijing Olympics in August last year.

Tourists now pay 50 yuan (US$7) to walk on the stadium floor and browse a souvenir shop.

It attracts an average of 20,000 to 30,000 visitors every day, according to Beijing tourism authorities.

The CITIC Group will continue to develop tourism as a major draw for the Bird’s Nest, while seeking sports and entertainment events.

The only confirmed event at the 91,000-seat stadium this year is Puccini’s opera “Turandot,” on August 8 – the first anniversary of the Olympics’ opening ceremony. The stadium has no permanent tenant after Beijing’s top football club, Guo’an, backed out of a deal to play there.

According to the company, maintenance of the 250,000-square-meter National Stadium will cost 60 million yuan a year, making it hard to make profit.

From the same pre-Olympics interview with Spiegel:

Herzog: Over the years, we were often completely perplexed, because we couldn’t gauge how our design was being received. What was missing was a clear response. But everything fell nicely into place in the end. … It just happens to be the case that in China, you can never be quite sure how anything will turn out.

.
.

Advertisements

Let me weave you a tale, or tell you a yarn, about the Beijing "Bird’s Nest"

08/27/2008

To my post on the woven nature of the Beijing National Stadium “Bird’s Nest,”


reader Pam Farrell wrote

I too was wondering what the birds nest building reminded me of…then I thought about a Martin Puryear woven wood sculpture. Couldn’t find an appropriate example, but I’m satisfied with that association.

I’m satisfied with that too. Very satisfied. The way only art can satisfy me. And I did find an appropriate example (or three) of Puryear’s work to make the case
“Old Mole” (1985)

“Thicket” (1990)

Martin Puryear is one of my favorite living sculptors. I’m not always sure why. I like the mystery in his forms. The anthropomorphism that has been handmade into something greater, through abstraction. The spiritual power when he passes traditional arts and folk traditions and wisdom of Africa and other lands through his being and through his hands and into his work. His political/historical power can punch, as in the soaring “Ladder for Booker T. Washington.” I love it set against the concrete walls in Tadao Ando’s Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. With elegance and earthiness Puryear turns craft work into deep art.

A handmade work in our industrialized society is born with mojo.

When I spent a day a few months ago with the architects of the “Bird’s Nest,” Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, they spoke of that. They hail from Switzerland. A land with centuries-long traditions of hand work. That led to the famous Swiss craftsmanship of timepieces. But they said that today, little is made by hand in Switzerland. They spoke of a recent trip to Kenya where they saw some craftsmanship, but a dwindling amount. And then, I’m just remembering now, Herzog mentioned India and China. He said they may end up as the last places on earth where things are still made by hand.

Which makes me wonder if their “Bird’s Nest” stadium is an homage to the hand-made. It does look beautifully woven, crafted- like a Martin Puryear.

What symbolizes craft more than


a ball of yarn? Look like the photo at the top?

Herzog and de Meuron attempted a similar blending in their lower Manhattan condo building at 40 Bond Street, this time, street art (graffiti) into architecture


There it’s much less effective. The manic energy sinks it, as does the dated feel of graffiti as inspiration in New York City.

You could say the “Bird’s Nest” reminds you of


a rubber band ball. Sure. But those are so tightly wound. It’s politically important that the “Bird’s Nest” is a more open, porous form. The stadium in Beijing speaks of “unraveling the truth.” And for such a large building, the openings make it seem less oppressive. That’s an important statement. As is the exterior with its lines in all directions to say “There are many paths.”

One last Martin Puryear


I like how he creates space, architecturally. It’s womb-like, with mystery and meaning in it. The “Bird’s Nest” also achieves this. And its form is enough like a whale to keep us looking at it in a satisfied way until we can figure it out its meaning. The “Bird’s Nest” too can look like a tail fin, reentering the ocean.

What Puryear has created gives off an animate power and yet would also be a carcass, or is it the ribbed infrastructure of a ship? It’s a rot, a ruin. The “Bird’s Nest” shows a melt-down tendency too. Do you see the romantic ruins of Piranesi in it?


A crumbling of the old order.

Martin Puryear uses wood in so many different ways that he renews its possibilities as artistic material. Herzog and de Meuron are doing the same for steel.

We once again see the relationship of architecture and sculpture. Many public buildings today get criticized for being too sculptural. In Beijing, Herzog and de Meuron get the balance between architecture, sculpture, craft and message just right.

Thank you Pat for the inspiration! Anyone else have associations with the “Bird’s Nest?”

Photos of Martin Puryear’s work by Richard Barnes/Museum of Modern Art

.

Form Follows Fascists

08/19/2008

I know the


looks like a


which can symbolize rebirth (the egg), freedom (flight) and a place to nurture new “movements.”

But I’ve been trying to figure out what the Beijing “Bird’s Nest” stadium really reminds me of. It’s interesting for its porosity, its irregularity, its non-Euclidean geometry. It recalls the work of artists who enclosed space in a similar way.



Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

“Wrapped bottle” is from 2001-2007. “Wrapped Snoopy House” is from 2004. And “Wrapped Paintings” is from 1969.

But Christo has been sending us packages like this since the late 1950’s. Since soon after he fled his native part of the world- communist Eastern Europe.

“Bird’s Nest” architects from Switzerland Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron worked with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on their stadium, not with Christo.

Ai Weiwei is famously critical of the Chinese government. He told the Guardian,

We must bid farewell to autocracy. Whatever shape it takes, whatever justification it gives, authoritarian government always ends up trampling on equality, denying justice and stealing happiness and laughter from the people.

I like his use of the word “shape.” The “shape” inside the wrapping? The truth is wrapped?

Back to Christo. He grew up in autocratic Bulgaria. He was born in 1935, the Red Army occupied his homeland in 1944. They changed it from an fascist ideological regime to a Stalinist communist one. In 1957 Christo escaped eastern Europe.

Is his art partly about the Communist state “wrapping” the truth? Covering up the true social conditions? He doesn’t deny this.

At the Beijing stadium, does seeing the “wrapping” in such a physical form, and beautiful, which means that what’s inside might be beautiful too, does this architectural statement make us more desirous of unwrapping? Of getting at a truth, (or at beauty)?

In this way Weiwei and the architects could be fomenting social change. No wonder Ai Weiwei said he wouldn’t attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Herzog and de Meuron were in some ways not credited enough, shoved under the rug by the authorities. (Again, truth hidden?)

Reminds me also of Winston Churchill’s “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

The walls are porous. The truth will leak out


and in.

Even the pavement around the stadium is not a single entity, but is divided into pieces. Individualism. As each of the steel rods supporting this great structure is valuable, and unique. Like the words in a good poem. Like the citizens in a free society.

To end then, more good words from Ai Weiwei

… The “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium, which I helped to conceive, is designed to embody the Olympic spirit of “fair competition”. It tells people that freedom is possible but needs fairness, courage and strength.



I’ll ask Ai Weiwei about this when I talk with him on September 17.

.

Can anybody beat Beijing? Is the US ready to compete for the 2016 Olympic Games?

08/14/2008

What’s the difference between


and

Between


and

Between

and

Ambition? Vision? Economics? Arrogance? The amalgamated power of the society behind it? If you think it’s all of the above, read this.

I write about it in the Huffington Post. You’re welcome to comment.

These pictures show you the difference. Symbols matter. So does ease of movement. So do first impressions and entries into cities and cultures.

Images in order:

a. Beijing “Bird’s Nest” stadium
b. Proposed stadium for Chicago, for the Olympics 2016 bid

a. Magnetic levitation train between Shanghai and its airport
b. Blue Line train between O’Hare and Chicago

a. New terminal at Beijing airport
b. new terminal at Chicago Midway airport

More from me on China here.

Can anybody beat Beijing? Is the US ready to compete for the 2016 Olympic Games?

08/14/2008

What’s the difference between


and

Between


and

Between

and

Ambition? Vision? Economics? Arrogance? The amalgamated power of the society behind it? If you think it’s all of the above, read this.

I write about it in the Huffington Post. You’re welcome to comment.

These pictures show you the difference. Symbols matter. So does ease of movement. So do first impressions and entries into cities and cultures.

Images in order:

a. Beijing “Bird’s Nest” stadium
b. Proposed stadium for Chicago, for the Olympics 2016 bid

a. Magnetic levitation train between Shanghai and its airport
b. Blue Line train between O’Hare and Chicago

a. New terminal at Beijing airport
b. new terminal at Chicago Midway airport

More from me on China here.

Olympic Stadium Beijing – "Bird’s Nest" photos

05/25/2008

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.

Watch a video on Herzog and de Meuron’s "Bird’s Nest" Beijing Olympic Stadium ——————— Then scroll down for the latest posts.

02/06/2008

Click on the arrow to play.
Turn your sound down or off if you’re at work.

(I don’t create the videos. I just like ’em. Most have credits.)