The London 2012 Olympics will dominate screens and clog British roads in a matter of months, and while the the attention will be on the medals, it would be misleading to pin the games as merely a sporting event. The competition is an opportunity for the host nation to flaunt its power and industry through the architecture of its Olympic park. In 2008, Beijing’s centerpiece, the Bird’s Nest set the bar Olympically high with its innovative, futuristic design. How does London’s Olympic Stadium measure up?
The centerpiece of London’s Olympic Park has met a variety of reactions, ranging from delighted to damning. Critics were keen to compare it (unfavorably) with the crowning jewel of Beijing’s 2008 complex. The arena, which took four years to complete, does not have the same immediate aesthetic pull as Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, but its creators have paid great attention to the green elements of its construction. Most, if not all, of the structure was made with recycled materials like rejected plastic crates and excess concrete from other areas of the park.
Bird’s Nest Stadium
Location: Olympic Green, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Designer: Herzog & de Meuron, ArupSport, China Architecture Design & Research Group, and Ai Weiwei
The Bird’s Nest was touted as an architectural success when fully realized, and even during its construction. Mixing both the functional and the aesthetic, the apparent disorder of the weblike exterior suggests an ethos of organized chaos, though the angles were in fact calculated for structural reasons. The open facade of the stadium creates a natural ventilation system, but the building’s overall execution focused more on aesthetics than sustainability.