The Water Cube. It’s a fitting name
for a natatorium that will ultimately look like a giant box of air
bubbles. And that’s exactly what designers had in mind when
they conceived the $125 million, 80,000-square-meter National
Aquatics Center in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Based on the geometry of bubbles, the seemingly fragile structure is an organic
network of transparent ethyltetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pillows.
This recyclable, Teflonlike material weighs just 1 percent of an
equivalent-sized glass panel, yet is robust enough to withstand the
seismic conditions in Beijing.
What’s more, ETFE lets in more UV light than glass. As a result, the towering,
translucent structure — the biggest in Olympic history
— will capture and transfer 90 percent of the solar energy
needed to heat the pools and interior air within its blue
In addition to the competition pool, the National Aquatics Center will house warm-up,
diving and recreational pools, and seating for 17,000. The exterior
will feature a small river and several fountains to enhance the
image and look of the building.
After the games, the building will expand into a multipurpose leisure center with pools,
a gym, ice-skating facilities and more. Roughly 6,000 permanent
spectator seats will remain. One expert says it will be the largest
recreational and fitness center in China.
The National Aquatics Center broke ground in late 2003 and will be completed
next year. Trial runs begin in 2007.