Beijing JJStyle 05: The State of Architecture

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One of the main reasons why I was drawn to practice architecture in China was the bountiful opportunities within the region to build, and as a designer, to play a part in helping shape China’s newly built environments.

It’s cool that people can go to Beijing, and actually self-prescribe their own Architectural tours of the city. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there’s just been so many new architectural projects to see, with some structures designed by the world’s top “Starchitects”. At my request, we were lucky enough to check out the National Stadium, or The Bird’s Nest, as most residents lovingly call it. This “nest”, conceived by artists, Ai Weiwei, was a token symbol of China’s rise not only as a global power, but as a possible influencer of culture.

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With the help of Swiss architects, Herzog de Meuron (HdM), Ai Weiwei’s form, formulated by an intricate lattice work of steel, was finally constructed and made it just in the nick of time by the Olympic’s inaugural celebration.

Stairs are incorporated in the building facade form.

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Inside it’s equally impressive in a different scale.

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It’s interesting to see for myself how all the puzzles fit, which is what I did as I walked around the stadium.

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And then the sports field is revealed…

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Denise just takes it all in.

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So very impressive.

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The internal skin constructed with water resistent tensile membrane called ETFE. It’s very strong and durable.

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There’s also real time computer monitoring of the Bird’s Nest’s structural health. Visitors can view structural health assessments via TV screens located around the public circulation. There are graphs for temperature, structural straining, wind speed and direction through the stadium, and vibrational analysis for example.

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The beauty is in the form as much as it is in the science.

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Even the glass balustrades around the Stadium had the facade pattern printed on it. The building’s story is followed through until the very detail level which is impressive.

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My friends, Denise and Jason, had fun getting their photos taken in “uniform” at the gift shop.

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The Bird’s Nest is but one of so many new and daring structures that have the opportunity and the flexibility to pop up in Beijing. Driving around the city, there are just so much more to see, and half of them designed by not so famous architects so they never get as much publicity as they could.

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This one below is designed by Zaha Hadid, and it’s called Galaxy Soho.

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Of course most streets are still lined with trees and are very low-rise in nature.

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And then there are sublime moments when your car drives past one of these structures. It’s Ancient history… within reach.

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Some of my other favorite projects in Beijing include OMA’s CCTV, Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid, and Paul Andreau’s National Opera.

And the construction just never ends as Beijing STILL “goes for the Gold”.

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ARCHITECTURE National Stadium - Bird’s Nest 

This post was originally published on November 21, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.

JJ.