Water Cube (Shuilifang)

On August 2, 2011, in Activities, Beijing, Modern Architecture, by Jack Li

The Water Cube is on the west side of the Olympic Park. It stands opposite the Birds’ Nest, National stadium. The size of the Water Cube is 80,000 square meters. The membrane wrapping the construction is the most appealing part. It is made by ETFE (Ethyl Tetra Fluoro Ethylene). The ETFE membrane is transparent, so the sun can shine through and brings natural light into the arena. Inside the arena there is a multi-story building which is full of well-organized seats with fantastic views of the pool. The oyster white architecture and the dark blue pool form a delightful contrast.

The Water Cube has a simple square design, which is very traditional for Chinese ancient culture but has a modern appearance. Chinese people think that nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards, which the Chinese call Fangyuan. Fang means square and Yuan means round. Ancient Chinese people thought that the sky was round while the ground was square. This inspired designers to build a square Water Cube and a round Birds’ Nest. The square shape is also the most used pattern in ancient urban city design, which reflects a social rule that Chinese people attach great importance to norms and standards. In addition, Water Cube is able to satisfy many functions for National Swimming Center, which combine the traditional culture demands and modern functions together.

In Chinese culture, water is an important natural element which cheers people up. The National Swimming Center will be built into Beijing’s biggest water park. Designers intended to provide a variety of entertainment for people of all ages and use water in many different ways. They hoped that water could enrich daily lives and stimulate people’s inspiration and enthusiasm.

The outside of the Water Cube was designed to look like a water molecule. By doing this, the designers made it look like bubbles. They covered the cube with an outer skin to look like particles. The skin seems like ice crystals, gently covering the concrete structure. Many technological and environmental ideas were applied in the Water Cube including natural ventilation, water reuse systems and high-tech building materials. There are innovations in the swimming pool too, for example they use outdoor air to bring up to the surface of the pool. Also there are holes in the end of the pool, and signals sent by audio and sound. These technologies make the Water Cube the most advanced swimming pool in the world and this helps professional swimmers to perform well.

Jack Li
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