Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in July 2001, and the city promptly geared up some serious plans for architectural planning and development. The city's efforts, for the most part, have paid off, with beautifully functional buildings to show off to the world. Here, check out some of the most innovative structures built in time for the opening of the Games.
Architects: Herzog & de Meuron
The $423 million National Stadium has become a rare architectural celebrity. Everyone calls it the "Bird's Nest," which in China means it is something much prized. Because the architects disliked the massive parallel beams necessary to support the retractable roof, they developed a lacy pattern for the other steel elements to disguise them. Although the stadium's curving steel nest grabs the most attention, the building actually combines a pair of structures: a bright-red concrete bowl for seating and the iconic steel frame around it.
National Swimming Center
Architects: PTW Architects, CSCEC+Design, and Arup
Called the Water Cube (even though it's a box 584 feet square and 102 feet high, not a cube), this building's skin is made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (a transparent form of Teflon) cells with either 14 or 12 sides. A space frame assembled on site from 22,000 steel tubes welded to 12,000 nodes holds the cells in place and provides a column-free structure with spans of 396 feet in either direction.
Architects: Studio Pei-Zhu
Digital Beijing, a nine-story, 1-million-square-foot building, rises solemnly just northwest of the effervescent Water Cube and the curvaceous Bird's Nest. The building will serve as the control center for the Olympics, home base for technical and security teams, and as a hub for the routers, computers, and servers needed to run the Games. Inspired by computer circuitry, the architects organized the building into four parallel slabs that recall a set of motherboards.
Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport
Architects: Foster + Partners and Arup
Terminal 3 reimagines circulation for passengers and vehicles alike, resulting in the world's biggest airport building. Terminal 3 measures almost 14 million square feet and cost $3.65 billion to build. It comprises three buildings, aligned on a two-mile-long, north-south axis, that form an elongated hourglass shape in plan. Columns at the center of the canopy are painted red, while outlying ones fade to orange then yellow—all part of a sophisticated color scheme that plays on traditional Chinese themes.
National Center for the Performing Arts
Architects: Paul Andreu Architect Paris
Ultimately, for all the time (eight years) and money (at least $400 million, in a country where construction costs are minimal) that went into it, the Center doesn't pack much of a punch. Andreu's titanium Egg (the Center's nickname) has a brushed texture, perhaps to prevent glare—though Beijing's polluted air usually does the trick. It is so carefully detailed that its surface is scaleless; except when window washers are climbing the exterior, it is impossible to grasp the building's size.
China Central Television Headquarters
Architects: Office for Metropolitan Architecture
A radical, looping structure, the headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV) stands as an antidote to the typical skyscraper. With its dramatic overhang suspended 36 stories in the air and a diagonally braced, continuous-tube frame expressing the forces of its structural system on its facade, it became a Beijing landmark even before its completion.
Architects: Sasaki Associates
Olympic Green holds 50% of the competition venues for the Olympics, and is located at the north end of the central axis of Beijing City. Sasaki saw its job as creating a framework for the Olympics as well as integrating the 2,800-acre site with the city as a whole. The design comprises three key elements: a Forest Park on the north, a diagonal Olympic Axis connecting existing sports facilities from the 1985 Asian Games to the new venues for the Olympics, and a Cultural Axis extending the ancient imperial route that runs north from Tiananmen Square through the Forbidden City.
Architects: Beijing Architecture Research Institute
Located west of the Forbidden City, the 18,000-seat basketball venue occupies four floors above ground and three below. The architects wrapped the exterior with aluminum-alloy cladding and equipped the building with solar panels and a rainwater-recycling system. According to Gu Yonghui, an architect at BARI, fans will enjoy upholstered seats and a high-definition LED display system that meets NBA standards.
Architects: BlighVollerNield with China Construction Design International
The 285,000-square-foot Olympic Tennis Center occupies a 41-acre site on the west side of an artificial hill in the Olympic Forest Park. It comprises 10 competition courts on four platforms and provides seating for 17,400 spectators. The architects designed the three structures containing the main courts as dodecagons, symbolizing the 12 petals of a lotus, a flower that has long associations with Chinese culture. All of the center's wastewater will be treated and recycled for use in irrigation, while solar cells will heat water for use in the buildings. Other green strategies include a geothermal heat system for one of the courts and natural ventilation for all courts.
Shun-Yi Olympic Aquatic Park
Architects: BlighVollerNield with EDAW
Set in the northeast part of Beijing, the Shun-Yi Olympic Aquatic Park will host all canoe and kayak events. The 343,000-square-foot facility occupies the largest site of any of the Olympic venues. It provides permanent seating for 1,200 fans, temporary seating for 15,800, and standing-room spaces for 10,000. Plans call for additional residential and commercial developments and for the location to be used after the Games as a swimming resort.
Source: Business Week