Designer(s): John Bilmon, Chris Bosse, John Blanchard, Mark Butler, Alan Crowe, Andrew Frost, Michael Lam, John Pauline, Kurt Wagner (of PTW), Tristan Carfrae, Ken Conway, Peter McDonald, Mark Lewis, Kenneth Ma, Haico Schepers (of ARUP) and CCDI, Australia
Category: Conceptual, Professional
About the Artist
National Swimming Centre, Beijing, People’s Republic of China.
Project Description :
The Watercube associates water as a structural and conceptual “leitmotiv” with the square, the primal shape of the house in Chinese transition and mythology. Conceptually the square box and the interior spaces are carved out of an unconfined cluster of foam bubbles, symbolizing a condition of nature that is transformed into a condition of culture. The appearance of the aquatic centre is therefore a ”cube of water bubbles”. As a cube is dropped into water, drops scatter and ripples spread away. Together these elements form the landscape’s water management system, with the building surrounded by ponds and a lineal moat at the perimeter. The Chinese philosophies of the square representing Earth and circles representing the heavens became a very important force. The square plan of the Watercube draws on traditional Chinese forms to establish a Yin and Yang relationship with the circular form of the National Stadium, by Herzog & de Meuron, situated opposite on the main Olympic Green axis. As a counterpart to the red, energy-giving, masculine, totemic image of the National Stadium, the blue Watercube appears as serene, emotion-engaging, ethereal and poetic, with changing moods that directly respond to people, events and changing seasons, creating a duality between fire and water, male and female, with all the associated tensions/attractions. The structure of the Watercube is derived from the structure of water bubbles in the state of aggregation found in foam, and is based on a unique lightweight construction, developed by PTW and CCDI with ARUP. Behind the totally random appearance hides a strict geometry that can be found in natural systems like crystals, cells and molecular structures – the most efficient subdivision of 3-dimensional space with equally sized cells. The transparency and apparent randomness is also transposed into the inner and outer skins of ETFE* cushions. Unlike traditional stadium structures, the architectural space, structure and façade of the Watercube are one and the same element. The Watercube aesthetic reflects a form of water, responsive to its physical and urban setting, bringing to the residents of landlocked Beijing the happiness, joy and fantasies associated with water. Demonstrating principles of traditional Chinese architecture and embodying latest technologies and materiality, this cross-fertilisation of ideas between cultures and architectural and engineering disciplines creates a building that is visually striking, energy efficient, and ecologically friendly.