Inspired by a traditional winter game, the National Speed Skating Oval is the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics only new permanent venue, designed out of Brisbane by Populous’ Asia-Pacific studio.
“The traditional ice game in old Beijing involved a high-speed spinning and leaping ice top that seemed to have infinite energy and possibilities,” explains Populous’ Chinese principal Tiric Chang.
“That’s what I thought of when reflecting on the characteristics of Olympic speed skating.
“So, the ice tops became part of the design inspiration injecting a strong Chinese memory into the venue.”
The new stadium is set to be unveiled on 4 February 2022 and marks the 14th time Populous has been involved in the Olympic Games, with the firm’s previous projects including the London Olympic Stadium, the Oval Lingotto in Turin, Italy and the Fisht Stadium in Russia.
The 12,000 seat venue sits along the Herzog & de Meuron’s National Stadium and the National Aquatics Centre by PTW Architects, better known as the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, which were built for the 2008 Summer Games in the Beijing Olympic Park.
The global architecture firm beat out 60 other practices in the global design competition in 2016 with construction commencing in mid-2017 and completed in 2021.
It developed the schematic design in just 12 weeks to meet this tight deadline, forging through several concepts and many iterations to develop the spinning concept into its final form.
Outside, the 33-metre facade is defined by 22 light strands or “ribbons” that flow up and around the oval mimicking “fast motion” and creating a more immersive experience for spectators.
At night, each strand is illuminated by an endless array of lighting program.
Their design was also inspired by Chang’s childhood in Beijing and stories of paintings in the Dunhuang Grottoes featuring apsaras (a type of female spirit of the clouds and water in Hindu and Buddhist culture) flying through the sky with colourful silk ribbons.
“This concept guided the design team to boldly extend the concept of a high-speed rotating ice top to creating 22 rotating light bands for the facade, which not only represent the ice surface and the shape of the oval, but also perfectly demonstrate the high-speed movement of speed skaters,” says Chang.
“The ice top transformed into an ice ribbon and the design created a beautiful interpretation of Chinese culture and heritage from figurative to abstract.”
Inside, 12,000-square-metres of ice surface area includes 400-metres of racing tracks and two additional underground levels for servicing and parking.
It’s also one of the first venues to use carbon dioxide transcritical direct cooling ice technology for ice making, which reduces the stadium’s carbon emissions.
This system makes it possible to achieve a temperature difference of less 0.5 degrees Celsius across the surface, which results in a faster and stronger track.
Seating and acoustics have also been carefully designed, to ensure the movement and sound of the speed skating blades can be seen and heard from every seat.
After the games end on 20 February 2022, the National Speed Skating Oval will be transformed into a community sport and training venue.
Populous is a global architecture and design firm that designs sports stadiums like Yankee Stadium, the London Olympics, Suncorp Stadium and the Super Bowl.
Recent Australian projects include Parramatta Stadium, which boasts
“Australia’s steepest stands”.
Photography courtesy of Populous.