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Water Cube

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, better known as the Water Cube, is an aquatics center that was built alongside Beijing National Stadium in the Olympic Green for the swimming competitions of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite its nickname, the building is a cuboid (rectangular box), not a cube.

Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008.

Swimmers at the Water Cube broke 25 world records during the 2008 Olympics.

Architecture
In July 2003, the Water Cube design was chosen from 10 proposals in an international architectural competition for the aquatic center project. The Water Cube was designed and built by a consortium made up of PTW Architects (an Australian architecture firm), Arup international engineering group, CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation), and CCDI (China Construction Design International) of Shanghai. The Water Cube's design was initiated by a team effort: the Chinese partners felt a square was more symbolic to Chinese culture and its relationship to the Bird's Nest stadium, while the Sydney based partners came up with the idea of covering the 'cube' with bubbles, symbolising water. The watercube has set a new standard in environmental sports design, not only in China but throughout the world. 

Comprising a steel space frame, it is the largest ETFE clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) in total thickness. The ETFE cladding allows more light and heat penetration than traditional glass, resulting in a 30% decrease in energy costs.

The outer wall is based on the Weaire-Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural formation of bubbles in soap foam. The complex Weaire-Phelan pattern was developed by slicing through bubbles in soap foam, resulting in more irregular, organic patterns than foam bubble structures proposed earlier by the scientist Kelvin. Using the Weaire-Phelan geometry, the Water Cube's exterior cladding is made of 4,000 ETFE bubbles, some as large as 9.14 meters (30 feet) across, with seven different sizes for the roof and 15 for the walls.

The structure had a capacity of 17,000 during the games that is being reduced to 6,000. It also has a total land surface of 65,000 square meters and will cover a total of 32,000 square metres (7.9 acres). Although called the Water Cube, the aquatic center is really a rectangular box (cuboid)- 178 meters (584 feet) square and 31 meters (102 feet) high.

Olympics

The Aquatics Center hosted the Swimming, Diving and Synchronized Swimming events during the Olympics. Water Polo was originally planned to be hosted in the venue but was moved to the Ying Tung Natatorium.

Many people believe Water Cube to be the fastest Olympic pool in the world. It is 1 meter deeper than most Olympic pools. Up to a certain limit, beyond which swimmers will lose their sense of vision, deeper pools allow the waves to dissipate down to the bottom, leading to less water disturbance to the swimmers. The pool also has perforated gutters on both sides to absorb the waves.

With the popularity of the newly introduced faster Speedo LZR Racer swim suit, the Aquatics Center saw 25 world records broken in the Beijing Olympics.

Awards
“ The special award for the most accomplished work in the section Atmosphere is awarded to the Australian architecture firm PTW Architects, CSCEC + Design and Arup for the project National Swimming Centre, Beijing Olympic Green, China. The project demonstrates 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”
  — Quote from the Jury report of the Official Awards 9th International Architecture Exhibition - METAMORPH, Venice Biennale

2004 - Venice Biennale - Award for most accomplished work Atmosphere section
2006 - Popular Science Best of what's new 2006 in engineering 
2008 - NSW 'Project of the Year' award from the Australian Institute of Project Management