Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist
January 01, 2008

2008 Olympics: new towers for a new superpower

This article by Ellis Woodman in the Telegraph
describes some of the spectacular building projects that are underway in Beijing at the moment. Given my dance on the Olympic site, I am tickled by Woodman’s hope that the Bird’sNest stadium will provide public spaces for dancing.

With capacity for 100,000 spectators, the National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest” as it is now universally known, is effectively one building within another.

An inner concrete bowl supports the seating and a steel exoskeleton rises up around and over it to form the roof. Except for the fact that the seating is arranged in a distinctive saddle-like profile, the bowl is relatively conventional.

The exoskeleton, however, is anything but. This mad tangle of enormous steel members was supposedly inspired by the patterns of crazed Chinese pottery. Miraculously, given that it has been built from elements weighing up to 350 tons, the finished product does somehow achieve the delicacy of that starting point.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the scheme is the Piranesian space caught between the concrete core and the steel enclosure. Shops, hotels and restaurants are set into the underside of the seating, opening on to the concourses which occupy this gap.

After the games, these spaces will serve as a new kind of public realm. If the stadium were to be built in the West, it is hard to imagine that they would be occupied. However, in China one regularly encounters people playing cards, dancing or exercising in the street. If they can capture something of that energy, these spaces promise to be remarkable.

Of course this new public realm that he hopes for will have been achieved at the expense of the people whose homes were demolished to make way for the Olympic site:

The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has estimated that 1.25 million residents have been displaced as a result of construction work related to the games, although the Chinese authorities claim that only 6,037 homes have been demolished.

Will they come back to dance their old pathways?

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