What’s Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Really Made of?


Beijing’s Herzog and de Meuron-designed national Olympic stadium, nicknamed the “bird’s nest,” reminds us of a giant Anish Kapoor sculpture crossed with a rubber band ball, but in the summer issue of Artforum, Sean Keller notes the Swiss duo’s two principal metaphors for the project: a Shang dynasty vessel(expressing “the desire for an ‘archaic’ form that would overcome the hodgepodge of ticket gates, snack shops, and Jumbotrons that make up a typical contemporary stadium”) and the nonhierarchical structure in which the exposed steel bands support one another (Facade? Ornament? Stop, you’re both right!).

Meanwhile, the New York Observer‘s man in Beijing, Tom Scocca, wonders why, if the whole thing is indeed made of steel (just over 22 miles worth, the wildly nationalistic official website tells us), does it chip to reveal concrete dust? He tries to read between the twigs:

I wandered the concourse, taking in the futuristic details: the deep-red paint job on the seating bowl; the translucent, alien-looking hanging light fixtures; the glossy black-painted restrooms; the oddly cartoonish signs and logos, like something drawn up by A Bathing Ape. And everywhere, veering off and coming together at different angles, those huge columns. I walked up to one and touched it, then tapped its surface with my knuckles. It had made a dull, stifled tap.

Why a tap and not a steely ring? We encourage you to read the entire piece for the…concrete details, masterfully conveyed.