The National Aquatics Center in Beijing, also known as the Water Cube, is a stunning piece of architecture built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Designed by Australian architecture firm Peddle Thorp Walker Architects, along with Arup Associates and CSCEC, the building is a perfect example of how innovative design and engineering can create a visually striking structure that serves a functional purpose. Located in the heart of Beijing, this is a lightweight, sustainable, and multi-functional structure with bold aesthetics which proudly hosted the events for the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. 

National Aquatics Center by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet1
National Aquatics Center-The Water Cube at night_©

The building’s unique design was inspired by the shape of soap bubbles and the pattern of a cellular structure. The resulting structure is a series of interconnected bubbles that form the building’s exterior. The bubbles vary in size, with the largest being 35 meters in diameter.

The building is made up of a steel frame covered in a translucent ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) membrane that gives it its distinct “bubble” appearance. The ETFE membrane allows natural light to filter into the building while providing insulation, which helps to regulate the temperature inside the building.

The building’s exterior is not only visually striking but also serves an important function. The ETFE membrane that covers the building’s exterior acts as a thermal blanket, which helps to regulate the temperature inside the building. The membrane also filters natural light, which reduces the amount of energy required to light the interior of the building. This makes the building more energy-efficient and sustainable. The interior of the National Aquatic Center is just as impressive as its exterior. The building houses two large swimming pools, one for competition and one for training, as well as a diving pool. The competition pool is 50 meters long and 3 meters deep, while the training pool is 50 meters long and 2 meters deep. The diving pool is 10 meters deep and features a range of diving platforms, including a 10-meter platform, a 7.5-meter platform, and a 5-meter platform.

National Aquatics Center by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet2
Interior of the National Aquatics Center_©

One of the most impressive features of the National Aquatic Center is the way in which the pools are lit. The pools are illuminated by a series of LED lights that are embedded in the bottom of the pools. The lights can be programmed to create a range of different lighting effects, including colorful patterns and shimmering reflections. This creates a visually stunning effect that is reminiscent of the patterns created by light reflecting off the surface of the water. The National Aquatic Center was also designed with sustainability in mind. 

The building features a range of green technologies, including a rainwater harvesting system that collects rainwater from the building’s roof and stores it in an underground tank. The harvested water is then used to flush the building’s toilets and irrigate the surrounding landscape. The building also features a state-of-the-art HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system that helps to regulate the temperature inside the building. The system uses a combination of natural ventilation, radiant heating, and air conditioning to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the building. The use of natural ventilation reduces the amount of energy required to cool the building, which makes it more energy-efficient.

National Aquatics Center by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet3
National Aquatics Center-The imported bubble geometrics from Arup’s 3D fabrication model into GSA_©

One of the most remarkable features of the Water Cube is its environmental sustainability. The building was designed to minimize its carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption. The ETFE membrane is one of the most energy-efficient materials available, and it helps to insulate the building and reduce the need for heating and cooling. The building also uses rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling systems to reduce water consumption, and it has a rooftop solar panel array that generates electricity from sunlight. The Water Cube has been awarded numerous accolades for its environmental sustainability, including the LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.

The plant has a unique structure made up of 634 translucent membranes. These membranes are swollen with air at low pressure, and there is a polymer called ETFE (ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene) that covers a total area of 100,000 square meters. This polymer allows light to pass through the plant very easily, but it also filters out ultraviolet rays. The plant also has a novel lighting system that uses luminescent diodes (LEDs). This system saves up to 60% of the energy that would be used by traditional fluorescents.

Inside the Water Cube on August 14, 2008_©

The National Aquatics Center continues the conclusion is an extraordinary architectural achievement that has captured the world’s attention since its unveiling in 2008. Its unique design, inspired by the shape of soap bubbles and the principles of yin and yang, has made it an iconic landmark in Beijing and a symbol of China’s growing economic and cultural influence. The interior of the Water Cube is just as impressive as its exterior, with a state-of-the-art swimming pool and an innovative lighting system that creates a mesmerizing visual display. The building’s environmental sustainability also sets a new standard for sustainable architecture and demonstrates China’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. Overall, the National Aquatics Center is a stunning example of the power of architecture to inspire and awe, and it will continue to be a source of wonder and inspiration for generations to come.

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Khushi is an interior designer who believes the key to understanding is communication, and what could be a better medium than words? She finds joy in little things as they matter a lot. She enjoys rom-com literature and poetry, always keen on learning something new.