Decoding Design

In Beijing, a second life for the National Aquatic Center

In Beijing, a second life for the National Aquatic Center

Posting in Architecture

Now that the 2012 Olympic Aquatics Centre is complete, what happened to Beijing's Water Cube?

This summer's opening of the 2012 Olympics Aqua Centre in London coincides with the repurposing of the 2008 Olympics' National Aquatics Center in Beijing. The building has been given a second life as a recreational water park named the Happy Magic Watercube designed by Forrec.

Affectionately known as simply the Watercube during the 2008 Olympic games, the Beijing National Aquatics Center was the little sister to Herzog and DeMeuron's Bird's Nest. The stunning structure's signature skin is clad in pneumatic pillows of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). ETFE is a strong, lightweight, and translucent polymer with high insulating properties. The structure's transparent and translucent skin allows natural light in during the day and creates a glowing effect at night.

The Watercube that once showcased record breaking swimming events now houses oversized tropical lagoon themed inflatables and water slides in its bubble-lattice space frame. Transforming into a recreational waterpark is a better, and more profitable, outcome than that of other former Olympic complexes.  Instead of sitting pretty but empty, the Water Cube has received 30,000 visitors every day since its opening.

London's Aquatic Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid, will house all water events in the 2012 Olympics. A webcam of the building can be seen on the official London Olympics page.

Images: Forrec

Share this

Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure