The National Swimming Center, known as ‘The Water Cube’, will be one of the most dramatic and exciting venues to feature sporting events for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Interior of the Water Cube

The interior of the Center makes a strong impression

In July 2003, the consortium of Arup, architecture firm PTW, the CSCEC (China State Construction and Engineering Corporation) and the CSCEC Shenzhen Design Institute (CSCEC+DESIGN) won the international design competition for the National Swimming Center for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The competition, which was judged by a panel of international architects, engineers and pre-eminent Chinese academics, commenced with submissions from ten international consortia and also involved a public exhibition and vote.

The Water Cube looks set to be ready in October 2007. Both the concrete and the steel structure have been completed, and 500 m² of prototype cladding was installed in April, 2006. The next phase is to install all of the cladding and then follow on with de-propping the internal structure and completing the interior.

The Water Cube

The building’s structural design is based on the natural formation of soap bubbles
To arrive at the building’s structural design, which is based on the natural formation of soap bubbles to give a random, organic appearance, we used research undertaken by Weaire and Phelan (professors of physics) into how soap bubbles might be arranged in an infinite array.

To bring the design to life, the individual bubbles are incorporated into a plastic film and tailored like a sewing pattern. An entire section is pieced together and then put into place within the structure. There are interior and exterior films, and the film is then inflated once it is in-situ. It will be continuously pumped thereafter.

The Water Cube - Arial

The Water Cube

The actual pumping has been sub-contracted, and once the installation is complete the operator will be responsible for both the operation and maintenance of the facade for ten years. This was a key component of the brief and in the choice of contractor.

The project is an opportunity for us to offer our expertise in sustainable services. The building will use solar energy to heat the pools and the interior area, and all backwash water is to be filtered and returned to the swimming pools.

The scheme and design for the project was developed in Australia. The project has now been handed over to a team in Beijing who are taking care of the construction.