Prior to the opening of the Beijing National Stadium, the stadium was already considered an icon for Beijing and a symbol for modern China.
The Beijing National Stadium is one of the most imposing stadiums in the world and its apparently casual structure has immediately conquered the people of Beijing who renamed it “The Bird’s Nest” for the complex geometry of the outer façade.
The stadium was projected by architects Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group to host the 2008 Olympic Games. It had a total spectator capacity of 91 000 but was reduced to 80 000 after the Olympic event.
The stadium is characterized by a large concrete structure supporting the tiers laid in an imposing independent steel structure that represents both the façade and the roof that looks like a interweaved net of beams made of steel.
The structure made of steel is actually the result of a complex geometry, based on a main structure of 24 pillars and characterized by curving beams that disappear in the ground, reappear along the entire façade of the stadium and curve to tangentially go towards the central opening of the roof. The structure is completed by a series of secondary beams and contains more than 7 500 separate elements, mounting to a total weight of 42 tons and a total length of 36 km. In accordance with the design complexity, the stadium also required special attention to an increased risk of earthquakes that are common in Beijing.
A semitransparent membrane called EFTA was inserted between the several beams of steel that the roof is rich of. This membrane enables the sunlight to go through and to offer the stadium a sense of lightness (which is one the typical concepts of the Bird’s Nest).
According to Chinese symbolism, when seen in contraposition from the nearby National Aquatics Centre (the new Olympic venue for water sports), the circular shape of the stadium represents paradise, while the quadratic form of the National Aquatics Centre (also known as the Water Cube) represents the earth.