Get local news delivered straight to your phone

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

“The Chinese way is to provoke until you can’t take it anymore. They want to see how you react, if you’re up to the job,” says architect Pierre de Meuron at the outset of Bird’s Nest: Herzog & de Meuron in China. The story centers on de Meuron and his partner Jacques Herzog—best friends since kindergarten and world-famous Swiss architects—as they embark on the biggest project of their lives in one of the most controlling environments imaginable. Their work, the Bird’s Nest stadium that’s the center of this summer’s Olympic Games, looks like a cross between a UFO and a silver basket. Directors Christoph Schaub and Michael Schindhelm do a great job of capturing the stunning, almost uncomfortable, vastness of Beijing, the stadium, and the ambition of the project. We see de Meuron and Herzog from the beginning of the architectural design competition to the final days of the Bird’s Nest’s completion. At no point does China pander to their egos. In one memorable scene, de Meuron reaches for the last shovel at the groundbreaking of the stadium just as a Chinese woman grabs it. “Oh please can I have one. I need one, yeah? I’m the architect. Come on. I’m the architect,” he says. He is literally reduced to saying “Give me, give me” by the end of his plea, but the lady does not relent. It’s a metaphor for a struggle that repeats itself throughout the film. —RS