The Olympic Park is located at the northern end of the extension line of Beijing city central axis. South to the North Fourth Ring Road and north to the North Fifth Ring Road, the Olympic Park occupies a total area of 1,135 hm2 with an overall length of 6 km. It includes: the Northern District (the Forest Park) with an area of 680hm2, the Central District with an area of 291hm2, the Southern District (the original Olympic Sports Center and reserved land for sports at its south side) with an area of 114 hm2.
The construction projects of Olympic Park Central Zone consist of National Stadium with 80,000 seats, National Aquatic Center with 17,000 seats, National Indoor Stadium with 18,000 seats, Convention Center of 500,000 m2, Digital Beijing Building of 100,000 m2,and 510,000m2 tenement buildings for athletes in the Olympic village. Olympic Park Central Zone is the core region for the 2008 Olympic Games and also the largest concentration area of stadiums in Olympic history.
The planning of the Central Zone avoids the assumption of building important projects at the end of central axis. The main stadiums are separately built at two sides of the central axis, with the National Stadium located at the east side showing a perfect contour and magnificence; the National Aquatic Center, National Indoor Stadium and National Convention Center are at the west side, reaching a dynamic equilibrium with National Stadium. This kind of dynamic and static equilibrium develops diverse space layouts of the Beijing central axis and presents the historical progress of it.
The landscape lane in the Central Zone is the extension of Beijing central axis. Its west side is planted with neat array of trees (the Green Axis) while the east side with a “dragon-shaped” water system (the Water Axis) with smooth shoreline. The whole layout forms a grand open space in the Central Zone, with central axis, green axis and water axis standing out among each other. The guarding of tree array and water system moderates the serious central axis, which highlights the “People First” idea. The design is in sharp contrast with the strictly hierarchical form of central axis in old Beijing city which the imperial palace shall be placed in the middle, with Ancestral shrine on the left and the Altar of Land and Grain on the right.
The design scheme of the Olympic Park Central Zone emphasizes the wholeness of the landscape of the Central Zone, taking the connection between the south and the north central axis space and the internal functional layout of the Central Zone into consideration and dividing the inner of the Central Area along the landscape of central axis from south to north into Celebration Square, Sinking Courtyard and Leisure Garden. Some important Olympic facilities like National Stadium, National Aquatic Center and National Indoor Stadium are located around the Celebration Square with a high flow rate of people and various kinds of frequent activities during the Olympic Games. The Celebration Square mainly focuses on offering a wide-open outdoor plaza and then demonstrates the Olympic atmosphere. The Sinking Courtyard sections, by strengthening its three-dimensional construction of city space, provides such functions as transportation, rest, entertainment, catering, shopping and so on for the public and visitors after the Olympics. The Leisure Garden serves as a transition zone from the Central Zone to the Olympic Forest Park. Focusing on mixed design of artificial and natural landscape, it provides the citizens with a wide-open landscape space while satisfying public needs for entertainment, recreation and other cultural activities.
The sequence space of the central axis highlights the Celebration Square between the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. With a length of 260m from south to north and a width of 160m from east to west, the celebration square served as the main area for celebrations and major pedestrian movement during the Olympics. The square is provided with facilities combining music and fountain, which, together with LED light show as well as the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube and trees around, provides a lively but relaxing civic square.
Serving as the connection between the central axis and the important stadiums at two sides, the City Square not only demonstrates exquisite architectural forms to the stadiums, but also provides an open space necessary to evacuate in emergency, thus making the separated stadiums an organic integral space around the Central Zone square.
The central axis is designed with reference to the central axis forms of the Imperial Palace, Tian An Men Square, Temple of Heaven and south middle axis. After experts’ repeated demonstration, it is finalized that the form of traditional Chinese axis should be reserved, with improvement done in details. As a result, the current 11m central axis takes shape. Considering the project characteristics, design is also made for facilities like washroom, direct drinking water, information access point, bicycle parking, signage system and other service facilities, which give back the functions of the Central Zone landscape as urban public space.
Located in the middle of the Central Zone and between the central axis and water system, the Sinking Courtyard is built as an open space and outdoor environment for the 200,000 m2 underground commercial development, subway entrance and high-flow pedestrian movement. As a result of it, the whole landscape space in the Central Zone will become three-dimensional to provide people an ideal place for traveling, shopping, leisure and meeting friends and also a new “city living room”. The construction of the Sinking Courtyard provides an ingenious transition between it and the ground landscape around the central axis, that is, from ground to underground, from magnificent space to courtyard and from large square and building to Chinese-style garden.
The Sinking Courtyard is divided into two major parts by Datun Road, an east-west urban road and is connected by the municipal underpass. To offer convenience for the pedestrian movement in east-west direction at two sides of the Sinking Courtyard, three walk covered bridges are built above the south Sinking Courtyard and two above the north one. Perpendicular to the central axis, these bridges form a transport system of the chessboard shape, like in old Beijing City. Datun Road and five covered bridges divide the Sinking Courtyard into seven similar ones which form a hierarchical progressive space under the ground from south to north. Like the vertical structure of traditional residential courtyard in Beijing, the square road network and the space structure of courtyard reflect the image of traditional Chinese architectural space, thus reducing the ultra-large urban space to large courtyard space.
The design of the whole courtyard focuses on the theme “Open Forbidden City”. The red palace wall of the Forbidden City is applied in the seven courtyards through breaking, malpositioning, connecting and penetrating. As a result, the whole Courtyard is outlined and its scale is adjusted.
In the first yard, huge pieces of palace wall are placed in its center. The movable “palace door” applies large-scale LED screen, which is open to the public at ordinary times. When closed, it forms a stage background, with its opposite side down into the Courtyard steps to provide outdoor seating for the public to watch games and have a rest. The second and the sixth yards, built based on the prototype of Beijing residential courtyard, respectively represent the unique understanding of classical and history. With similar prototype, they produce totally different interpretations and artistic conceptions and show the infinite possibilities of the development of Chinese classical architectures. The third yard, by incorporating the elements of ancient musical instrument - drum wall, chime and copper flute and so on, reminds people an old Chinese saying: how happy we are, to meet friends afar! The fourth and fifth yards, a transition space with less decoration crossing Datun Road, aims to reduce pedestrian stay here. The seventh yard perfectly incorporates the ramp way and steps of the Sinking Courtyard by deriving elements from Chinese classical architectures, fine arts, decorations and so on, with a pursuit of artistic conception. It achieves a good effect.
The incorporation of traditional elements in the design of the Sinking Courtyard brings people a strong visual shock. In detail treatment, they all present uniqueness, with abundant and profound contents. It is truly a brand-new and bold try in inheriting and developing traditional culture in Chinese architecture history.