Designed by the Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the stadium lives up to its aspiration as a global landmark. Its elliptical latticework shell, which has earned it the nickname the Bird’s Nest, has an intoxicating beauty that lingers in the imagination. Its allure is only likely to deepen once the enormous crowds disperse and the Olympic Games fade into memory.
Great architecture can never be fully conveyed through a television screen, of course, and it saddens me that so many Americans will experience the building only via satellite. In a site for mass gatherings, Herzog and de Meuron have carved out psychological space for the individual, and rethought the relationship between the solitary human and the crowd, the everyday and the heroic. However the structure attests to China’s nationalistic ambitions, it is also an aesthetic triumph that should cement the nation’s reputation as a place where bold, creative gambles are unfolding every day.
The Times’ Olympics blog has an interview with artist Ai Weiwei, who co-designed the stadium but has now become one of the fiercest critics of the government as it prepares to host the Games:
Q: What disappoints you about China’s Olympic effort?
Ai: The biggest disappointment is that China has fallen short of its promises, which is, “One World One Dream,” or to show the world a “New China, New Beijing, New Olympics.” I doubt there’s anything new here. What we’re seeing are the deep-rooted lack of courage and confidence, and the want for real happiness and civil participation. Instead, we see more of inept management and a blind sense of self-defense.
The Chinese society is undoubtedly bound for more freedom and democracy, and the Olympics are a great opportunity to show the world our longing for, as well as effort to achieve, democracy and freedom, rather than the opposite.