The Beijing National Aquatics Center (simplified Chinese: 北京国家游泳中心; traditional Chinese: 北京國家游泳中心; pinyin: Běijīng guójiā yóuyǒng zhōngxīn), also officially known as the National Aquatics Center, and colloquially known as the Water Cube (Chinese: 水立方), is an aquatics center that was built alongside Beijing National Stadium in the Olympic Green for the swimming competitions of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite its nickname, the building is not an actual cube, but a cuboid (a rectangular box). Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008. Swimmers at the Water Cube broke 25 world records during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
After the 2008 Olympics the building underwent a 200 -million-yuan revamp to turn half of its interior into a water park. The building officially reopened on August 8, 2010. It will host the curling at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
In July 2003 the Water Cube design was chosen from 10 proposals in an international architectural competition for the aquatic center project. The Water Cube was specially designed and built by a consortium made up of PTW Architects (an Australian architecture firm),Arup international engineering group, CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation), and CCDI (China Construction Design International) of Shanghai. The Water Cube's design was initiated by a team effort: the Chinese partners felt a square was more symbolic to Chinese culture and its relationship to the Bird's Nest stadium, while the Sydney-based partners came up with the idea of covering the 'cube' with bubbles, symbolising water. Contextually the cube symbolises earth whilst the circle (represented by the stadium) represents heaven. Hence symbolically the water cube references Chinese symbolic architecture.
Comprising a steel space frame, it is the largest ETFE-clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) in total thickness. The ETFE cladding, supplied and installed by the firm Vector Foiltec, allows more light and heat penetration than traditional glass, resulting in a 30% decrease in energy costs.
The outer wall is based on the Weaire–Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural pattern of bubbles in soap lather. In the true Weaire-Phelan structure the edge of each cell is curved in order to maintain 109.5 degree angles at each vertex (satisfying Plateau's rules), but of course as a structural support system each beam was required to be straight so as to better resist axial compression. The complex Weaire–Phelan pattern was developed by slicing through bubbles in soap foam, resulting in more irregular, organic patterns than foam bubble structures proposed earlier by the scientist Kelvin. Using the Weaire–Phelan geometry, the Water Cube's exterior cladding is made of 4,000 ETFE bubbles, some as large as 9.14 metres (30.0 ft) across, with seven different sizes for the roof and 15 for the walls.
The structure had a capacity of 17,000 during the games that is being reduced to 7,000. It also has a total land surface of 65,000 square meters and will cover a total of 32,000 square metres (7.9 acres). Although called the Water Cube, the aquatic center is really a rectangular box (cuboid) 178 metres (584 ft) square and 31 metres (102 ft) high. The building's popularity has spawned many copycat structures throughout China. For example, there is one-to-one copy of the facade near the ferry terminal in Macau – the Casino Oceanus by Paul Steelman.
Water Cube The National Aquatics Center in Chaoyang
The National Aquatics Center at night
Inside the Water Cube on August 14, 2008
The Beijing National Aquatics Center while under construction
The Aquatics Center hosted the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events during the Olympics. Water polo was originally planned to be hosted in the venue but was moved to the Ying Tung Natatorium.
Many people believed the Water Cube to be the fastest Olympic pool in the world. It is 1.314 meters deeper than most Olympic pools. The London 2012 Aquatics Centre is the same depth, which leads many to believe the London pool is as fast as, if not faster than, the Beijing pool. Up to a certain limit, beyond which swimmers will lose their sense of vision, deeper pools allow the waves to dissipate to the bottom, leading to less water disturbance to the swimmers. The pool also has perforated gutters on both sides to absorb the waves.
The Aquatics Center saw 25 world records broken in the Beijing Olympics; however, all the records broken were accomplished by athletes using the super-slick swimwear which has become banned at the beginning of the 2010 season by the International Swimming Federation (FINA).
After the Olympics, the Water Cube was opened to the public on select days of the week beginning in June 2009, and was also used as the site for a production of Swan Lake amongst other shows. On October 19, 2009, the Water Cube was closed to the public to begin a massive renovation of a portion of the complex into a water park. The building reopened on August 8, 2010, marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The redesigned facility contains numerous water rides and slides, a wave pool, and spa areas. The renovations were performed in order to bring renewed interest to the Olympic Green area as part of the games' legacy.
2022 Winter Olympics
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The Water Cube will be used for curling during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
2004: Venice Biennale – Award for most accomplished work Atmosphere section
2006: Popular Science Best of what's new 2006 in engineering
2008: NSW Project of the Year award from the Australian Institute of Project Management
2009: 40th annual MacRobert Award, the UK's biggest prize for engineering innovation
2010: International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering 2010 Outstanding Structure Award