Beijing Olympic Village
Langham Place is the mother-of-all shopping malls in the heart of Hong Kong, with many levels of shopping and escalators zigzagging up and out to floors of retail and restaurants higher and higher. Hundreds of thousands of people enter this mall every day, and the weekends are almost standing-room-only. The place almost rattles with intensity. I could hardly get time during the day to work on the project because there was always a line of reporters waiting to interview me and photographers wanting to stage the ideal shot.
Timing is everything, and when I was preparing to build this project, China was about to host the Summer Olympics. China went all-out to wow the world with its new buildings for the Olympics and it was the talk of the globe at the time, so to tap into this nerve of national pride and create the ultimate challenge for me, they asked if I could build some Beijing landmarks as well as the Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube from the Olympic Village. Beijing landmarks, no problem. Water Cube? Got it. Bird’s Nest Stadium? Umm. . .
For more than a week, I worked on everything except the Bird’s Nest because I had no clue how I would build it—not a clue structurally, and not a clue visually. How do you take rectangular cards and make a donut-shaped building that has an almost textured, criss-crossing, web-like exterior? Oh, and, all that crazy stuff has to lean outward as it gets higher. So, finally it was time to build the Nest because I had pretty much completed everything else, and the Langham Place mobs were watching my every move to see how I was going to make it happen. There were lots of restarts. There were some initial and ongoing collapses, but finally I found a few things that worked and captured the essence of the real building. As I worked, I had to build each section so that it leaned outward as much as possible, and all of it was just the slightest touch from falling. I guess I didn’t breathe much for a few days, but slowly fear turned to fun as I pushed through. As the Bird’s Nest started to really come together, I knew that even though this was by no means the largest or tallest build I had built, it was definitely one of the most intensely challenging.
As a side note, here is some advice from a guy who has been to a lot of places both far and wide: go to Hong Kong because it is just such an amazing place that has found a way to blend Eastern and Western influences into everything from food to architecture. And, if you want to make your exotic trip to Hong Kong even more exotic, take another set of flights to another amazing place that is just about as far away from home as you can get from the US: Cambodia. There you can see the Temples of Angkor (think Indiana Jones) and one of my favorite buildings on earth, Angkor Wat—another building I’d love to recreate in cards.