The configuration of the Beijing National Stadium is meant to symbolize “great nature” on the earth. Chinese culture greatly influenced the choice of this architecture. Beyond the iconic design there is the deeper importance of showing the coexistence of the Olympic Games and nature. The Olympic Green in Beijing as a whole is a beautiful green space designed not only for natural aesthetics, but for a broader environmental well being.
To understand just how important the Beijing Olympics are to China, you have only to look at where the Olympic Green has been built. As Beijing began its first major expansions as a city, six hundred years before this current era, the city was laid out symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis. Similar to Paris and Washington, DC, Beijing’s most symbolically important structures have fallen along the main axis. In the center is the former imperial residence of the Forbidden City. To the North is the Jingshan, a park surrounding an artificial hill where the last Ming emperor is said to have hanged himself, and, beyond that, the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. In 1958, when the Communists expanded Tiananmen Square, at the southern gate of the Forbidden City, they placed the Monument to the People’s Heroes on the same axis, in the center of the square. And now, spread over twenty-eight hundred acres at the opposite end of the axis, is Beijing’s Olympic Green. If Tiananmen Square is a monument to the Maoist policy of self-sufficiency, the Olympic Green, ten miles and fifty years away, is an architectural statement of intent every bit as clear—a testament to the global ambitions of the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Sasaki won first prize in the international design competition to establish the master plan for the Olympic Green – the main site of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The Chinese tradition of aligning important public buildings created “a huge temptation to put the stadium right on the axis,” he said. “But we decided that in the twenty-first century we were beyond that, and that we should, instead, symbolize infinity, and the idea of the people in the center, not a building.” So Sasaki placed the stadium just to the east of the axis and the Water Cube just to the west; the space directly on the axis was left open.
There has been some criticism of China concerning the actual impact the site will have post-Olympics. There were billions of dollars spent on the Olympic Green not including the billions spent in Beijing preparing for the Olympics. Most of the criticism is centered on the fact that the space doesn’t seem to consider the impact of the Olympics on a long term scale. The pre-Olympic goals in London for example include a drastic change in the scope of their city economically and socially, by equalizing and bringing modernization to some of its less wealthy areas. It was recently reported that plans are underway to build a shopping mall and hotel connected to the structure. Overall Beijing’s Olympic architecture is undeniably brilliant, both in conception and execution; and the iconic concept of constructing a “Bird’s Nest” is aligned with the overall theme of nature and balance.