We've been reading about China's construction plans for years, and wondered whether all those huge buildings will be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics. Now those buildings are opening for business, one by one.
Beijing Capital International Airport's new Terminal 3 will officially open tomorrow (February 29th). It is the world's largest airport building with over ten million square feet of interior space. In fact, it is the second largest building in the world! Designed by Foster+Partners, it went from plans to opening day in less than four years. Ten villages were displaced to make room for the terminal. But don't blame the Olympics; the old airport configuration was already straining under the load. Even this dragon-shaped design will be inadequate in another ten years or so.
Beijing National Stadium
The Beijing National Stadium is expected to be completed next month. Designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, it is sometimes called the "Birds Nest", for obvious reasons. It has an official capacity of 91,000, but will likely hold 100,000 for the Olympic opening ceremonies. (image credit: Tee Meng)
National Aquatics Center
The National Aquatics Center was completed last month, and has already hosted the 2008 Swimming China Open. The "Water Cube" seats 17,000 people. The Aquatics Center was designed by PTW Architects, CSCEC International Design, and Arup. The striking exterior is made from translucent Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, a strong, lightweight plastic that looks like glass, and is estimated to save 30% in energy costs over a traditional design.
Olympic Basketball Gymnasium
The Olympic Basketball Gym opened last month in Wukesong, west of Beijing. It covers 63,000 square meters and can seat 18,000 spectators. China's basketball fever is largely due to the success of Yao Ming, who must sit out the rest of the NBA season with a stress fracture. Whether he will be able to play for the home team in August is now up in the air.
Olympic Green Tennis Center
The Olympic Green Tennis Center was completed in October, 2007. The three main courts look like flowers, with twelve sections of seating surrounding each court. The sections are separated by open vents to help circulate fresh air, which will be pumped in at the bottom of the stands. The main court will seat 10,000 spectators; the other two will seat 4,000 and 2,000 respectively. In addition to the three large courts, there are seven smaller courts that will host preliminary rounds and six training courts.
There are many more new venues specifically for Olympic competition and housing. You can see the art, and a few current photographs, at the Olympics site. There are also construction projects to accomodate the many visitors expected in August.
National Grand Theater
The National Grand Theater opened in 2007. The egg-shaped opera house with three auditoriums is made of titanium and glass and is surrounded by water. It seats 6,500 people. Designed by French architect Paul Andreu, the theater construction cost 50% more than estimated. Construction overruns and high maintenance costs will mean the Chinese government will have to subsidize the theater's activites for several years at least. See more pictures here.
The CCTV Headquarters building was designed by Rem Koolhass of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The building is shaped like two Ls that are joined at the top, but the nickname that stuck is "the Z building." When completed (supposedly in time for the Olympics), the 54 story building will stand 755 feet tall. Besides CCTV offices, the building will house a hotel, a visitor's center, a theater, and exhibition space.
China is also building at least 109 new hotels to accomodate Olympic travelers. Pictured is the 400-room Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport Hotel, scheduled to open in mid-2008. The biggest hotel project is the Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall, with 615 rooms.
15,000 people have been relocated to make room for the Olympic venues. Six people have died in the construction projects, including two at the National Stadium. One project, a shooting range, was delayed over the discovery of imperial-era tombs. Many ancient artifacts were discovered as bulldozers broke ground at several other sites. The Olympics begin August 8th.