The Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the National Aquatics Center, better known as the Water Cube, 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 a cuboid (rectangular box), not a cube.
Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008.
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. It should be noted that 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(Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) 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 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 formation of bubbles in soap foam. 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 meters (30 feet) 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 6,000. 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 meters (584 feet) square and 31 meters (102 feet) high.
The building has won many architectural awards for its innovative design.
Architect : PTW Architects,CSCEC, CCDI, and Arup