This is the first of a number of posts about my studio trip to Beijing at the end of February. Some will go more in depth about our project and what we did and saw, and others will be more of the "crazy things I saw in China" variety. There are a lot in that second category.
This first one is a little of both. Our first two full days in China were spent in Beijing seeing the sights, or at least the kind of sites designers go and see when they are in Beijing. Our first afternoon was spent on the grounds of the Olympic Stadium. I was lucky enough to be in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, so I had been to the site before. However, between the cold weather, pollution, relative lack of people and two years of neglect, it felt a little different this time around.
The site was eerie and dystopian. I kept telling people that, if in 10 years the country has collapsed, someone will use these buildings as a metaphor in the introduction to a book detailing China's fall. Dirty windows, all manner of stained surfaces, cracked and split concrete, impassable stairs, and just plain broken pieces of both buildings illustrate how rushed design and, at best, casual maintenance can rob a building like the Bird's Nest of its recent grandeur. (This metaphor really writes itself.)
The situation outside of the buildings is not much better. Between the pollution and haze, a haunting loop of the syrupy (though still catchy as hell) official 2008 Olympic song, and a palpable sense of emptiness and abandonment accentuated by a sparse ambling collection of visitors, the grounds felt like a place the city had forgotten. The video sort of captures this, though if anything, it makes it seem like much more of a happening place than it was. And it definitely was not.
It was not all bad though; I'll post about the cool things I found there tomorrow.