The Bird’s Nest

The centerpiece of the Beijing Olympics, the National Stadium, sits at the other end of the spectrum from my ‘solid’ post. A seemingly light and airy elliptical network of crisscrossing columns and beams, support asymmetric, translucent roof panels that challenge every rule book on architecture.

Bird’s Nest, Beijing

The brief entrusted to architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron was to design a stadium that was different from anything they had done before, and that was required to be  “porous while also being a collective building, a public vessel“. They eventually arrived at the “Nest” theme while studying Chinese ceramics for inspiration.

Bird’s Nest, Beijing

The statistics are staggering: 110,000 tons of steel (all made in China) including 24 trussed steel columns each measuring 1000 tons, 7,811 square meters of turf field (laid in 24 hours!), a seating capacity of 91,000, a four-star hotel with 80 rooms under one of its sides, a gourmet restaurant with views of the athletics track, a twin-level underground shopping centre, undersoil geothermal pipes for temperature control, 24 hour rainwater harvesting and recycling. The cost? A whopping US$423,000,000!

Bird’s Nest, Beijing

The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics held in this memorable stadium was supposed to underscore China’s arrival into the big league. That it did…and how!

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

56 thoughts on “The Bird’s Nest

    1. Indeed. As do several other countries.
      I don’t know about China, but i feel strongly about developing countries, India in particular, with huge populations below the poverty line, bidding for extravagant sporting events. Only the very rich and the politicians gain from it. Not the sport or the country.

  1. Great post! It’s hard to capture the greatness of that impressive stadium, but you did it well!
    I fear I would walk out too, and in tears. I had a hard enough time at a small-pueblo rodeo when the clowns were basically tormenting a young bull. It’s hard to stand by when in another culture, and there’s an insensitivity to another living thing, plant or animal.
    Thanks, the images are great!

    1. I went several years ago for the romance, the atmosphere in a packed arena was indeed electric. But fighting a tortured and weakened bull was not my idea of fair play. We could sense that the magnificent animal just knew it had no chance. I couldn’t stand to see the end. Our cab driver was disappointed that we did not GET the essence of the fight. We really didn’t.

      1. Yes, sometimes when I witness or realize how very little our species has evolved spiritually, a feeling of great sadness and shame washes over me. Thankfully we cross paths with some who are more evolved, and we have hope in the future. You belong in the latter group, as do most of our WordPress friends.

  2. Hats off two Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron for designing such a wonderful architecture. And these pictures are really beautiful. Great post. 🙂

  3. What a beauty! With so much steel material, it’s fascinating how light and airy it looks! And how interesting that it’s a “birds nest” – as that is one the of the most popular Chinese dishes known and often featured at Chinese weddings – a symbol of prosperity?

    1. Thanks Angeline. Did you watch it in person??? That would have been something. It was spectacular enough watching it on TV.

  4. Very informative description for the Bird’s Nest. I did not know they build hotel, restaurant, and shopping center there. The temperature control and the rainwater harvesting and recycling are way to cool! Thank you, Madhu!

    1. I think so too Frizz. I would have loved to see it at night, when you can see through into the lighted interior.

  5. I always love the architecture of stadiums all over the world and hope that one day Indonesia will have an ultra modern stadium like Bird’s Nest – the biggest stadium we have now was built in 1960s for the Asian Games.

    1. It certainly must be a source of national pride. But is the expense worth it for developing nations like ours? Not so sure Bama.

    1. It does! It is near impossible to capture the full stadium from the outside – from within the Olympic park – without a wide angle lens. Thanks Suzanne.

  6. What an impressive structure, Madhu. We have many stadia which were built at great expense for the Soccer World Cup in 2010. Today they are just ‘white elephants’ that they don’t know what to do with. I’m glad you didn’t post about the bullfight. I couldn’t contemplate going to something like that.

    1. Yes the bull fight was awful. And I think it is a criminal waste to spend money on showy stadiums, that can be used – in our case at least – to feed the poor. HAve no doubt the Greeks would agree as well. Thanks AD

  7. Great post, I love this building it is so different, the open structure of the design is amazing.

  8. Dear Madhu, my husband I attended a bullfight in 1988, not realizing that the bulls were first tortured and then killed. Once was enough. People can plead “tradition!” But some traditions are throwbacks to earlier more brutal times–like slavery and arranged marriages. I can’t believe that boxing is still legal, but at least the participants have a choice.

      1. It was very sad and upsetting. But the last time I went to Spain, the year before last, I did notice many posters protesting the bullfights. There is hope yet.

        1. Barcelone officially banned it a few years ago. I guess the others will follow suit eventually. I think Arles hosts bullfights for a couple of weeks in early summer as well!

  9. I look forward to reading your post about bullfighting in Madrid 🙂
    I don’t see why people could get offended. You always write with respect and sensibility so go for it!

    1. I think I should too, but I don’t want to seem like I endorse bullfighting 🙂 Thank you for the kind words 🙂

    1. I have acknowledged this award of course, but am appalled that I hadn’t responded here! Apologies Robin and do know this meant a lot 🙂

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