Monday, September 14, 2009

Beijing's National Stadium, The Bird's Nest

The National Stadium, the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing is one of the most photogenic of modern buildings. It appears its best at night, like many dazzling women. It is the product of a Swiss architectural firm that employed a Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, to help them keep the project in line in terms of its indebtedness to Chinese designs. Weiwei introduced the concept of great Chinese ceramics in part because any great stadium, is in part a bowl. But the use of such dramatic steel trusses crossing everywhere throughout the building gives the impression of a bird’s nest more than that of a bowl.

The Chinese had taken to the building right away, and the dramatic photographs that circulated in the Western media made it a darling of magazines and newspapers. The reviews of the building were almost uniformly positive, and the anticipation of being within it sparked all the tourists who went to see the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics. It was a great success in providing the space for the track and field and gymnastic events as well as for the general ceremonious uses to which it was put. It pleased almost everyone.

Today, a year after the Olympics, the fate of the building is in some doubt. The plans were designed so that the building would house shopping malls and also become an 80,000 seat entertainment center. As of now, relatively few large entertainments have taken advantage of the space, and in some places, according to commentators, the building is flaking and not being well maintained.

We hope to see the Bird's Nest for ourselves in November. Perhaps we can see it at night, with its “makeup” on.