Beijing 2009 - The National Aquatic Centre

The Chinese government has come up with a perfect way to raise money – entrance collections ! To enter all the Olympic buildings, you need to pay an entrance fee which varies from RMB 30 to RMB 50. Assuming there are about 10,000 visitors each day (which is a low estimate based on the crowds we saw), they will easily collect about RMB 18 mil. per month. In one year they can collect close to RMB 200 mil ! All all this from just one building !

The National Aquatic Centre is commonly known as The Water Cube. Designed by Australian firm PTW Architects in conjunction with China Construction Design International (CCDI) of Shanghai, the concept is quite daring and innovative. The simple cubic form is clad entirely in a plastic material which is supposedly developed by NASA for space use. The plastic bubbles which cover the building are actually “pillows”, they are double-sided with an air-pocket in between, kept inflated with an internal ventilation system.

The most interesting feature of the building was of course the plastic bubbles. Outside the building, you can’t miss it, as the building looks really surreal with this wrapping which look like gigantic soap bubbles. Once you are inside, however, the effect is lost as you see more of the massive structures holding up the entire building. Up-close, the plastic also looks a bit worn-out and cheap. Maybe the internal plastic and the external covering is different ? I don’t really know.

Inside the main swimming hall.

The night view is even more interesting as the whole building is lighted up from inside.

Like many of the Iconic Projects we saw in Beijing, the building is not as impressive in real life. Somehow you can’t get away from the feeling that the Conceptual Model had actually been converted into a real building, and there wasn’t much design development along the way to make the buildings more compelling as a piece of architecture.


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