Beijing National Aquatics Center

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Beijing National Aquatics Centre
Water Cube
Beijing National Aquatics Centre 1.jpg
The National Aquatics Center, with the Beijing National Stadium in the background
Building information
Full nameBeijing National Aquatics Center
CityBeijing, China
Coordinates39°59′30″N 116°23′03″E / 39.99167°N 116.38417°E / 39.99167; 116.38417Coordinates: 39°59′30″N 116°23′03″E / 39.99167°N 116.38417°E / 39.99167; 116.38417
Capacity6,000 (17,000 during Olympics)
Construction costCNY940 million
USD140 million
EUR94 million
Architect(s)PTW Architects, CSCEC, CCDI, and Arup
Main pool
Length50 m (160 ft)
Width25 m (82 ft)
Depth3 m (9.8 ft)

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,[1] 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.[2] Swimmers at the Water Cube broke 25 world records during the 2008 Summer Olympics.[3]

After the 2008 Olympics the building underwent a 200-million-yuan revamp to turn half of its interior into a water park.[4] The building officially reopened on August 8, 2010.[5] 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.[6] The Water Cube was specially designed and built by a consortium made up of PTW Architects (an Australian architecture firm),[7] Arup international engineering group, CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation), and CCDI (China Construction Design International) of Shanghai.[8] 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 elliptic stadium) represents heaven, a common motif in ancient Chinese art.

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.[9] 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.[9] This choice was made in view of Beijing's goal of presenting a fully "green" Olympic Games, with zero net growth in total carbon emissions.[10]

Energy is not the only resource conserved in the Water Cube: much of the water found within and outside the building is recycled, which is particularly important in water-strained Northern China. The building's design aimed to "capture and recycle 80% of the water falling on the roof or lost from the pools."[11] Gray water is treated and recycled back into the pools within the Water Cube itself, and water lost in the course of this treatment process is replaced by rainwater salvaged from the building’s roof.

The outer wall is based on the Weaire–Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural pattern of bubbles in soap lather.[12] 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.[8] 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.[13]

The structure had a capacity of 17,000[9] 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).[9] 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.[13] The building's popularity has spawned many copycat structures throughout China.[14] For example, there is one-to-one copy of the facade near the ferry terminal in Macau – the Casino Oceanus by Paul Steelman.[15]

2008 Summer Olympics[edit]

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[16] 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.[citation needed]

The Aquatics Center saw 25 world records broken in the Beijing Olympics;[3] 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).[17]

Post-Olympics usage and legacy[edit]

Indoor water park
Video: The Beijing National Aquatics Center reopened on July 28, 2010.

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 under the of the Canada-based design firm Forrec.[18] This 200-million-yuan refurbishment transformed the Water Cube into Asia's largest indoor water park, featuring "seven-story water slides and a wave machine, as well as attractions for the more land inclined such as shopping centers, cafes, and performance stages."[19] The building reopened on August 8, 2010, marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The renovations were performed in order to bring renewed interest to the Olympic Green area as part of the games' legacy.[5]

In 2013, the Water Cube became a permanent art installation titled Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube by artist Jennifer Wen Ma and lighting designer Zheng Jiawei.[20] The team employed the LED system and reflection and refraction of the light through the ETFE bubbles to represent the emotion of the Chinese public on each day as gathered from emoji usage in social media. The relation between colors and emotion referenced ancient Chinese teachings, specifically the I Ching.

The Water Cube has also launched a trademarked line of lifestyle goods and merchandise.[21]

The Beijing National Aquatics Center Limited Liability Company in 2019 proclaimed that the Water Cube achieved revenues of 124 million yuan (about $18 million USD) in 2018 alone and has been breaking even for years,[22] breaking the mold of expensive Olympic venues as economically unsustainable vanity projects.

2022 Winter Olympics[edit]

Ice Cube

The Water Cube will be used for curling during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.[23] Because of this, it has now been informally called the "Ice Cube."


The special award for the most accomplished work in the section Atmosphere is awarded to the Australian architecture firm PTW Architects, CSCEC + Design and Arup for the project National Swimming Centre, Beijing Olympic Green, China. The project demonstrates in a stunning way, how the deliberate morphing of molecular science, architecture, and phenomenology can create an airy and misty atmosphere for a personal experience of water leisure

— Quote from the Jury report of the Official Awards 9th International Architecture Exhibition – METAMORPH, Venice Biennale

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official Olympics Site National Aquatics Center Archived August 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ National Aquatics Center Delivered for Use[permanent dead link], Beijing 2008 Olympics Official Web Site, January 1, 2008,
  3. ^ a b Scott M. Reid (August 18, 2008). "25 world records broken at Beijing's Water Cube". Orange County Register and MSNBC.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Cube becomes Park for Olympic Revival".
  5. ^ a b Farrar, Lara. "Beijing's Water Cube now has slides, rides, a wave pool and spa". CNNGO. Archived from the original on August 19, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  6. ^ Arup East Asia. "The Water Cube, National Aquatics Centre, Beijing". Archived from the original on June 4, 2008. Retrieved August 17, 2008.
  7. ^ "Water Cube - National Swimming Centre". PTW Architects. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Welcome to WaterCube, the experiment that thinks it's a swimming pool by Peter Rogers in The Guardian, May 6, 2004
  9. ^ a b c d e (2006). "Best of What's New 2006 – Engineering". Popular Science. 269 (6): 84–85.
  10. ^ Jaivin, Linda (2014). Beijing. London: Reaktion Books. ISBN 1780232616.
  11. ^ Ball, Philip (December 2006). "Science in Culture: Beijing Bubbles". Nature.
  12. ^ Beijing venues – National Aquatics Center, on BBC Sports.
  13. ^ a b Pearson, Clifford (July 2008). "Projects: National Swimming Center". Architectural Record. McGraw Hill. 196 (7). Archived from the original on August 13, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  14. ^ Barbara Demick. "Beijing's Water Cube Still Drawing Crowds". Los Angeles Times. Aug. 13, 2009.
  15. ^ Casino Oceanus – The Unofficial Casino Oceanus Website from Archived February 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Berkes, Howard (August 10, 2008). "China's Olympic Swimming Pool: Redefining Fast". NPR. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  17. ^ Crouse, Karen (July 24, 2009). "Swimming Bans High-Tech Suits, Ending an Era". The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  18. ^ "Water Cube will close for renovation from October 15". eBeijing, the Official Website of the Beijing Government. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  19. ^ "In Pictures: Beijing's Water Cube Legacy". Architect's Journal. August 19, 2010.
  20. ^ "Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube". Littlemeat Productions.
  21. ^ "Licensed Goods". Water Cube. National Aquatics Center - Water Cube.
  22. ^ 邹, 松霖 (2019). "水立方:世界场馆良性循环的优等生". China Economic Weekly 中国经济周刊.
  23. ^ Connolly, Eoin (July 31, 2015). "Beijing to host 2022 Winter Olympic Games". Sports Pro Media. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  24. ^ "PTW Projects:Watercube-National Swimming Centre". Archived from the original on August 19, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2006.(page in Flash presentation)
  25. ^ Lee, Ellen. "Water Cube scoops the pool at project management awards". Arup. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.

External links[edit]