This is China. In the space of just one generation, its grown into the world's
second-largest economy - transforming cities, connecting its regions, harnessing the power of
nature, and taking a central - if occasionally controversial - role in global affairs.
But while these feats are all very impressive,
they mean little if no one actually knows about them.
To capture the worlds attention and showcase the nation, China has built some of the most
impressive sporting infrastructure on Earth in
recent years - and its latest complex takes things into a whole new league.
This is the Phoenix Mountain Sports Park in Chengdu. Its yet another big,
glitzy and impressive sports venue in China - but its different from the others.
To really understand how it came about and why it looks like this we need to rewind a bit.
Chinas transformation over the past 30 years blows the mind.
The economic reforms of the 1980s have seen its cities explode and small towns are now huge
metropolises. The country has built two-thirds of the worlds entire high-speed rail network
in just 12 years and its now an undisputed manufacturing powerhouse.
But to really get noticed by the world, China knew it needed to do something big
and in a language that everyone understood.
Massive multinational sporting events are powerful ways for countries to show the world what theyre
about or that they have officially arrived - we saw it at Tokyos first Olympics in 1964.
China wanted to host one of these and began seriously developing its talent.
After ranking 11th at the 1988 Seoul Olympics,
the country came back and has finished in the top five at every Games since.
When Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008,
China amazed the world with its opening and closing ceremonies
and topped the medal table - a feat it repeated in 2010 when the Asian Games were held in Guangzhou.
Its since been awarded the 2021 World University Games, the 2022 Winter Olympics and
Asian Games in Hangzhou and to top it all off, the 2023 AFC Asian Cup less than a year later.
But the country is keen to learn from the challenges of the past - because
some venues built to host previous events both here and around the world have sat
largely inactive afterwards due to a lack of natural demand for such specific infrastructure.
Theres now a new approach and sports venues are being
built with both community and legacy in mind.
The new Phoenix Mountain Sports Park in Chengdu is a pretty textbook example of
this. Its set to host the, now delayed, 2021 Summer World University Games and the AFC Asian
Cup in 2023 - but its conceived as a public meeting place, where the local community can
gather throughout the year regardless of what's on the sporting calendar.
The 43-hectare complex is more like a public square for the emerging Jinniu District
with a world-first conjoined 60,000-seat FIFA-grade football stadium
and 18,000-seat multi-purpose arena at its heart.
The site has been designed to host exhibitions, concerts, and festivals among its extensive
landscaping and 128,000 square metres of mixed-use, hotel and retail facilities.
The main stadium itself is pretty epic. Nodding to Chengdus history,
its supposed to resemble a traditional Sichuan bowl of tea from above,
while its dynamic exterior makes use of layers of materials that mimic silk threads,
playing with light and shadow to create a visual experience that changes throughout the day.
Completed in February 2021, the stadium is now the largest in China dedicated to football.
It connects to the neighbouring arena via a multi-use bridge structure
that contains clubrooms and facilities for both venues.
With retractable seating and stage options, the venue was designed with flexibility in mind
and can cater to everything from concerts and basketball to ice hockey and table tennis.
But its incredible adaptability is nothing compared to its roof.
The structure is one of the largest curved and open-cable dome roofs
and the largest curved ETFE membrane structure in the world.
Now, all stadium projects are complex, but Phoenix Mountains world-first design,
technical challenges and extremely tight schedule of just two and a half
years from design to completion put it in a league of its own.
To complete the project by its immovable 2021 deadline, the team
used a range of software from Autodesks AEC Collection and Autodesk Construction Cloud.
Preliminary designs and construction drawings were created on AutoCAD, while in-depth models
of the structure, MEP services and the membrane roof were all produced in Revit,
from which information and schedules to share with manufacturers were created.
The team then basically used the BIM 360 platform from Autodesk Construction Cloud
to build, test and coordinate the entire project in a virtual environment
before then doing it all for real out on the sports park.
They effectively made all their mistakes and picked up issues in the BIM 360 software,
which is a much less costly place to do it than on the live construction site. Before a single beam
was lifted, the team had digitally pre-assembled the building to confirm the construction process.
The approach reduced risk and helped them tackle the projects immense challenges.
Once the physical works started they completed just 730 days
later - 30% faster than a similar-sized stadium.
The project actually managed to reverse the infamous trend set by many other stadiums in
the lead up to a major sporting event, completing 132 days ahead of schedule.
That would have meant a whole lot more had the wonderful coronavirus not postponed the 2021
World University Games by a year, but it's an achievement nonetheless
and it saved a projected USD $14.5M on the project.
In recent years the appeal of hosting major sporting events has been on the wane around
the world. Even with the economic business cases, the eye-watering capital costs often
put governments off, there are a fair few Olympic horror stories about and
the pandemics impact on the Tokyo Games is surely any cities' worst nightmare.
But Chengdus approach is one to look to. At their best sports venues not only do a great
job of hosting major events but become the focal points for communities. They create the space for
people to come together, to share in sport, music or culture; they become the facilities
where the next generation of athletes develop, and they trigger long-term economic prosperity.
Phoenix Mountain seems set to follow in the footsteps of some of the worlds most successful
sports infrastructure to date - confirming Chinas position as a sporting superpower
but moving into a more community-centric phase.
This video was made possible by Autodesk Construction Cloud; you can learn more about
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