As I was gearing up to watch the Olympics this year, I’ve been following the world record-speed development in China as it prepared for the opening ceremonies. I was excited to see that some of the hype surrounding the event — and not just in architecture circles — centered on the new stadiums. Herzog & de Meuron’s “Bird’s Nest” is referred to prominently and endearingly by announcers as the competitions continue. Watching swimming and diving competitions in PTW’s National Swimming Center has enhanced my viewing experience as the white bubble structure mimics and highlights the blue water. And it has been exciting watching cycling and long-distance running events as cameras zoom out to reveal the Forbidden City with OMA’s China Central Television tower just beyond.
While CCTV is still under construction, and journalists have revealed decorative walls hiding neighborhoods that did not “clean up” in time, not to mention the ongoing debate about whether architects should be practicing in countries with questionable politics, I am more disappointed that the media has not highlighted the international collection of architecture firms that contributed to the Olympic backdrop. China has provided an arena for global firms to contribute to the event, which is by nature a coming together of nations. There’s even a sense of competition as Herzog & de Meuron seems to be winning the design gold medal for the Bird’s Nest’s staging of the opening ceremonies, despite Michael Phelps’ record-breaking swimming performance in the runner-up National Swimming Center. As contemporary architecture takes the stage in the public eye, wouldn’t it be nice if the architects received recognition as well?