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National Swimming Centre

Author: vingida

National Swimming Centre
2008 Olympics
Beijing, China

Hello to everyone!

I’m not aware of overall community audience opinion but I, personally, find the opportunity to share issues of my interest with other open-minded people exciting.

Some time ago I remember Discovery channel showed Beijing venues planned to be constructed for Olympics 2008 in China. One of architectural decisions I liked a lot. Probably one of the reasons is that it touches upon my professional interests and tech textile industry of course. Maybe the majority will consider this information a bit dated, but anyway I’d like to tell a few words about the structure known as ”Watercube”.

Image courtesy PTW

PTW won the international design competition to create the National Swimming Centre for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in late 2003.

The design, known as the ”Watercube”, plays on the geometry of water bubbles, fantastically crystallised as a massive rectangular form. The structure’s elemental shape is specifically designed to work in harmony with the circular main stadium, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, both of which will rise on the Beijing Olympic Green in a spectacular duality of forms. The facility will be used prior and post games as a multi-purpose leisure and elite swimming centre.

”Our ”Watercube” concept is a simple and concise square form that ultimately uses the water bubble theory to create the structure and building cladding, and which makes the design so unique.
It appears random and playful like a natural system, yet is mathematically very rigourous and repetitious. The transparency of water, with the mystery of the bubble system, engages those both inside and out of the structure to consider their own experiences with water."

Andrew Frost
Director, PTW.

The building’s skin, made from an innovative and lightweight transparent ”teflon”, abbreviated as ETFE, has been designed to react specifically to lighting and projection – and particularly the advanced systems which will become available in the coming four years – to create a stunning visual and sensory experience that will also be shared by millions of television viewers around the world. This state-of-the-art material provides a cost effective cladding solution for modern architecture, enabling a wide range of applications where traditional materials, such as glass, may not be possible.

The Swimming Centre is one of 18 sports facilities being built in Beijing for the 2008 Games.

Ground-breaking: December 2003
Completion estimated for late 2006

Total area: 70,000 square meters
Total seats: 17,000

The structure:
Despite its organic look, the structure is a simple steel space-frame consisting of two parts; the internal structure and the face structure that forms the actual roof and ceiling and accepts the ETFE pillow cladding.

The internal structure, within the depth of the roof and walls,is highly repetitive. There are three different nodes and four different members. The nodes can be cast or fabricated and the members, cast, rolled or fabricated.
The face structure comprises a flat web of rectangular box sections either welded or bolted together on site. The face structure is added to the top and bottom of the space frame to complete the structure.

The design is based on a common natural pattern, the most effective sub-division of three dimensional space –the fundamental arrangement of organic cells and the natural formation of soap bubbles.

”We realized that a structure based on this unique geometry would be highly repetitive and buildable whilst appearing very organic and random. Indeed such space filling patterns are regularly observed in biological cells and mineral crystals, they are probably the most common structure in nature. Also the ductile space frame that is generated from this geometry is ideally suited to the seismic conditions found in Beijing.”
Tristram Carfrae
Arup team leader

PTW, which currently employs over 150 people, maintains offices in Sydney, Australia as well as both Beijing and Shanghai in China. While the company is highly regarded for its major civic projects and large scale sports facilities, including involvement in the International Athletics Centre and the Aquatic Centre of the 2000 Sydney Games, PTW's strong and existing relationship with the Chinese played a pivotal role in the development process.

"Our successful concept owes much to our Chinese team partners, and particularly the China State Construction and Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and Design Institute who effectively planted the seed of an idea that has ultimately captured the imagination of the Chinese people."
Andrew Frost, Director, PTW

The internationally renowned engineering firm of Arup also played a strategic part in solving the deceptively simple, yet complex equation. Arup is highly regarded as a world leader in engineering, responsible for such gravity defying structures as the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, and Australia's own Sydney Opera House.

"Swimming centres require a lot of heating, but by cladding the building in high-tech ETFE cushions, we have developed a very efficient green house.
90% of the solar energy falling on the building is trapped within the structural zone and is used to heat the pools and the interior area".
Kenneth Ma,
Arup's Mechanical Engineer

Source: www.arcspace.com/architects/ptw/

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