The National Stadium is situated on a gentle rise in the centre of the Olympic complex to the north of Beijing. From the distance, the sports structure looks like a gigantic collective shape, like a vessel whose undulating rim echoes the rising and falling ramps for spectators inside the stadium. The building can be distinguished not only for the rounded shape but also for the grid of the load-bearing structure, which encases the functions, but also appears to penetrate them. What is seen from afar as a geometrically clear-cut and rational overall configuration of lines, evaporates the closer one comes, finally separating into huge separate components. The components look like a chaotic thicket of supports, beams and stairs, almost like an artificial forest. In this Piranesian space, people get together in restaurants, bars, hotels and shops, or on the platforms and the crisscrossing horizontal, diagonal and vertical paths of access. This space, surrounding the interior of the stadium, is façade, structure, decoration and public space all in one. It is the link between the city outside and the interior of the stadium and is, at the same time, an autonomous, urban site. Sports, games, later rock concerts and other activities will, of course, dominate the use of the interior space, while the new park on the plinth will invite people to stop a while and relax; the really novel feature of the project is clearly the transitional space between interior and exterior. This is the space that will inspire people to move about, to be together and to enjoy each other’s company.
To make the roof weatherproof, the spaces in the structure grid of the stadium are filled with a translucent membrane, just as birds stuff the spaces between the woven twigs of their nests with soft filler. Since all of the facilities – restaurants, suites, shops and restrooms – are self-contained units, it is largely possible to do without a solid, enclosed façade. This allows natural ventilation of the stadium, which is the most important aspect of the stadium’s sustainable design.