Watercube by PTW Architects


Architect Chris Bosse has sent us some photos of the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing - better known as Watercube - which officially opened on Monday.

Bosse was associate architect on the building when he worked at PTW Architects of Australia. The centre will host the swimming and diving events at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in August, hosted its first event, the Good Luck Beijing 2008 Swimming China Open, on 4 February.

Here is some information from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad:


National Aquatics Centre, the landmark building of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, is located inside the Beijing Olympic Green. It is axially related to the National Stadium on the north part of Beijing Central Axis and reinforces the historical and cultural features of Beijing city. The planning area of the NSC is 62950m², and the total floor area is 65,000 - 80,000m², in which the underground component is not less than 15,000 m².

The National Aquatics Centre will be the venue for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water-polo final during the Olympic Games. The total seating capacity is 17,000, including 6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary for Games which will be removed post-Games, when the National Aquatics Centre will become the venue for various activities such as aquatic sports, swimming, fitness and recreation.

The international competition-winning scheme is known as "Water Cube" ([H2O]³). It is designed by the design consortium consists of China State Construction Engineering Corporation, China State Construction International (Shenzhen) Design Co., Ltd, PTW Architects (Australia) and Ove Arup (Australia).

The design concept of the "water cube" combines the symbolisms of the architecture and the unique water bubble structure, and build an appropriate complement to the National Stadium. The NSC functionally meets the requirement of 2008 Olympic Games and post-games operation.

The National Aquatics Center is owned, managed and operated by BJSAM. Commenced at the end of 2003, the construction of the building will last 3 years. The total investment of the project is around 100 million US dollar. After the completion of the construction by the end of 2006, the project will be approved by IOC and FINA. (Provided by: Beijing Stated-owned Assets Management Corp. Ltd)

Update 07/02/08: here are some new photographs of the interior from Bosse:

Bosse designed the Aquatic Center for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing while working for Australian architects PTW. He has recently teamed up with Tobias Wallisser to launch a new architectural practice called LAVA. See our previous story on the Architonic lounge by LAVA.

Posted on Wednesday February 6th 2008 at 6:50 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • kur0yi

    the overall outer appearance is a bit of a low for me, this straight box structure. but otherwise, its pretty good. as always, plans would be interesting :)

  • fvale

    the skin is very well thought.
    I kinda like the idea of being a straight box as you called it. Imagine a swimming pool full of water..now, take off the walls, what do you get ?

  • Andrew S.

    ^ I love the exterior, personally, but I can’t stand the inside. Apart from the roof, the interior is completely forgettable.

  • M

    Simple and effective – kept to the original ideas too. A building that celebrates its activities and one that the people actually loves – what more can you ask for?

    As for the interiors, I know they solved a lot of acoustic issues with the ETFE skin (think how it would sound when it rains), and I saw some pictures of it, its a great space for swimming events. Well executed.

    that site, with the birdnest, is bound to attract billions of people for the years to come…

  • Adl

    I personally like it’s simplicity. Although it looks a bit naive, any shape would be suitable for expressing water, since a liquid can take the form of its container….meaning the shape of the water in a swimming pool is boxy. So it’s what Ventury would call a “Duck”, because it symbolizes itself.
    I agree that the interior design is a tad below expectation, but it seems quite standard and quite suited to its intended use. I’d say the roof looks fantastic from the inside.

    Now i can’t get “Duck” out of my head…

  • sibz

    kind of depressing for herzog and demeuron since the facade is so similar to their allianz-arena stadium, except that the single elements are irregular….

  • crorks

    I have to say that the aerial view highlights how poor this design is because it will be compared to the more adventerous form of the adjacent stadium and it falls behind greatly in this aspect.

    The facade is interesting and I feel more could have been done with this to interact with the stadium and create a theme for the developing area. The irregular shapes shown on the skin of the building are not ideally suited for a box shaped design and it just doesn’t work.

    Night shots are interesting and look reasonable, but the three shots during the day highlight the lack of good design.

    Dissapointing piece when compared to the stadium which in my opinion is quite impressive (externally at least)

  • Thumb

    It’s a shame it looks so ugly in the daytime… I wonder if the polluted atmosphere of Beijing will mean it needs cleaning all the time?

  • A

    I had a friend who worked on the Herzog project. He was telling me that each bubble on the exterior facade had an individual air-pumper. Apparently, it created a lot more unnecessary noises for the swimmers, and especially divers. I’m not sure if that’s true.

  • Wow, amazing to see the commitment to iconic architecture … these are great examples of experimenting with interesting materials

    thanks so much for the blog post!

  • Arch

    The facade is soooooooooooooo aquatic-like.

  • Arch

    Herzog and de Meuron’s ‘bird’s nest’ is still a stand-out. It should be.

  • MZ

    I think the day view gives also the quality of translucens. It is transparenter as some fully glased offices towers. I have to agree, that the enterior is too simple and commercial. So it makes a Decorated Box, but a beautiful one. And the comparison to stadion: I find the swimming center more convincing.

  • concept

    The WATERCUBE associates water as a structural and
    conceptual “leitmotiv” with the square, the primal shape of the
    house in Chinese tradition and mythology. The structure of the
    WATERCUBE is based on a unique lightweight construction,
    developed by China State Construction Design International
    (CCDI), PTW Architects. & ARUP, and derived from the structure
    of water bubbles in the state of aggregation found in foam.
    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 equally transposed into the inner
    and outer building-skins, made of inflated ETFE cushions. Unlike
    traditional stadium structures with gigantic columns & beams,
    cables & spans, to which a façade system is applied, the
    architectural space, structure and facade of the WaterCube are
    one and the same element. 90% of the solar energy falling on
    the building is trapped within the highly efficient structural
    zone and is used to heat the pools and the interior area.
    Rainwater from the roof is reused, recycled and redistributed
    alongside efficient pool filtration and backwash systems. The
    design uses state-of-the-art technology and materials to create
    a visually striking, energy-efficient, and ecologically friendly
    building. 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. Together with the main stadium by Herzog
    & de Meuron, a duality between fire and water, Yin and Yang, is
    being created with all its associated tensions and attractions.
    The Project was recently recognized at the Venice Architecture
    Biennale for “demonstrating in a stunning way, how the
    deliberate morphing of molecular science, architecture and
    phenomenology can create an airy and misty atmosphere for a
    personal experience of water leisure

  • .o0

    You should search for the story of the engineering. how complex is the structural scheme and how it solves some problems.

  • achille

    it looks like an Ikea.

  • r.n

    When i imagine water do i instantly think of bubbles? Maybe dishwater…

  • your mum

    this is such a boring comment… but did the architect think about the climate of beijing – like it’s one of the dustiest cities in the world? Those bubble forms are going to collect gobi desert dust in about a week, after which it’ll look like something out of tatooine – more jabba’s hut that waterworld… the only way to clean it will be with a millino gallons of water, which china doesn’t exactly have a lot of. Let’s see how it looks next summer, after the olympic PR cleaning team have gone home…

  • Whoo likes bu-bbles?……

    Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…

    We like bu-bbles!………….

  • vesey

    what an incredibly ugly building !!!!

  • I like this post and it has shown me some sort of desire to have success for some reason, so thank you.