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Beijing Olympic Museum Designer


UCR Professor Leads Beijing Olympic Museum Design Team

Haibo Yu, known internationally for innovative set design, is the only U.S. representative on the team creating the high-tech museum.

(May 12, 2010)

Haibo YuEnlarge

Haibo Yu

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Two years after the 29th Olympiad concluded in Beijing, the governments of the host city and the People’s Republic of China are preparing to open a spectacular museum commemorating the Summer Games and China’s role as host nation. Haibo Yu, associate professor of theatre at the University of California, Riverside, is the chief designer of the project and the only representative of an American university on the 50-member design team.

The team was one of four – including two from the United States and one from Germany – that submitted concepts for the Beijing Olympic Museum in a design competition sponsored by the municipal government of Beijing and the national Ministry of Culture.

The winning concept celebrates the three themes of the Beijing Games – environment, science and technology, and China’s history and culture – as well as the history of the Olympic Games and China’s progress as an Olympic competitor since it sent its first Olympic athlete, a sprinter, to the 1932 games in Los Angeles.

“Many host cities have created museums,” said Yu, who has taught for seven years at UC Riverside, where he is the faculty scenic and lighting designer. “I am very pleased and feel very fortunate and to have been chosen to be part of the team.”

Yu, who was born in Beijing, is well-known in the United States, Europe China and Hong Kong for theatrical, television and movie set design. He was part of a team that bid to design the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although that team was not selected, other designers were impressed with his ideas and invited him to join a team representing Qinghua University and Beijing University of Technology in the competition to design the Olympics museum. The winning concept was announced in February.

“The Chinese have great respect for the UC system,” Yu said. “I represent UC, not UCR only. They like strong the professional experience and the academic background for which the University of California is known.”

Eric Barr, chair of the UCR Department of Theatre, noted that while Yu spent much of his early career working in England he has spent the last few years designing in China.

“It was thrilling to see his work when his team was competing to design the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Not only were the designs amazing, but his use of computer-aided design and new rendering techniques made his presentations important educational tools for students,” Barr said. “As impressive as his international reputation is the range of Professor Yu’s work. He designs for theater, dance, film and television, which sets him apart from many designers whose work is confined to one particular medium or one art form. In this time when television, film, media and theatrical production companies are creating more and more content, designers must be trained to communicate in the different styles required for each medium. Not only does Professor Yu do this professionally, he brings his experience and knowledge to the classroom, giving UCR students an insider’s look at the theoretical and practical aspects of scenic design.”

Between January and late April Yu made five trips to Beijing, first to help develop the winning concept, and more recently to design the two-story, 300,000-square-foot museum that will be located in a former parking lot beneath the iconic Beijing National Stadium, better known as the Bird’s Nest. He will spend the summer in Beijing overseeing completion of the design and the start of construction. The museum is scheduled to open by the end of the year, with costs estimated at more than $100 million.

Although plans are not final, the winning concept envisions a high-tech, interactive museum featuring Olympic rings that rise on a hydraulic system from the lobby floor; a waterfall that descends from a giant leaf floating below the ceiling; scenes from the spectacular opening ceremonies projected onto a spinning globe; interactive displays that allow visitors to “compete” against Olympic athletes on the track, on bicycles, in target shooting and in sculls; the original Olympic countdown panel from Tiananmen Square; an interactive display recalling the history of the Olympic movement; a 3-D film of the opening and closing ceremonies; a metal ribbon simulating a track on which sculptures of athletes represent various sports; and display stands filled with medals, equipment and personal belongings of Olympic athletes such as gloves and goggles, all donated by Chinese and other athletes who competed in the Summer Games.

The museum also celebrates the 2008 Paralympic Games, which followed the Summer Games, and China’s cultural and Olympic history.

Although theater set/production design is his primary interest, Yu said he is enjoying the experience of designing a museum. “There’s much less argument than in theater set design,” he said. “It’s more of a team effort.”

Yu is a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 and The Society of British Theatre Designers. Among his design credits are “The Adventure of Por Quinly” for South Coast Repertory; “The Best Man” for the East and West Players Theatre in Los Angeles; “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Merry Women of Windsor” and “As You Like It” for Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; “Stone Angel” for Broomsberry Theatre in London; “Whale” for Harrogate Theatre in England; “Casablanca, The Dance” (associate designer) for Warner Brothers; “The Power of Morality,” a national award ceremony, for China Central TV; “The Opium War” for Xie-Jin Films; and “The Foreign Moon” for Media Asia (Hong Kong) and BBC Films.

“We are delighted and excited about the range of Professor Yu’s work and for the recognition he has gained and brings to UCR,” Barr said. “This new project, designing the Olympic Museum at the Bird’s Nest, is another feather in his cap.”
The two-story Beijing Olympic Museum will be located in the parking area beneath the Bird's Nest.Enlarge

The two-story Beijing Olympic Museum will be located in the parking area beneath the Bird's Nest.

A metal ribbon resembling a track would contain sculptures of athletes representing various Olympic sports.Enlarge

A metal ribbon resembling a track would contain sculptures of athletes representing various Olympic sports.

One proposed feature of the museum is the original Olympic countdown clock that resided in Tiananmen Square surrounded by columns linked by clasped hands.Enlarge

One proposed feature of the museum is the original Olympic countdown clock that resided in Tiananmen Square surrounded by columns linked by clasped hands.

Images of 2008 Beijing Olympics venues are proposed in the high-tech, interactive museum.Enlarge

Images of 2008 Beijing Olympics venues are proposed in the high-tech, interactive museum.

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