When Beijing earned the privilege to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, they had to set about building a swimming pool to host the various competitions. The government held a design competition, which was won by an international consortium composed of several different architectural groups. Together, they designed and built the Beijing National Aquatics Center. The locals refer to it as “Shui Li Fang,” otherwise known as the “Water Cube.” I wonder why they call it that.
As expected, the building has deep meaning in Chinese culture. The cuboid shape represents the earth, while the circle, created by the stadium, symbolizes heaven. The exterior bubble pattern represents, well, bubbles, because the whole thing is a giant water pool, after all.
Many believe that the cube is the most high-tech Olympic pool in the world, which isn’t terribly surprising because it is also the most recently built. How, exactly, is one swimming pool faster than the other? Evidently, deeper pools allow swimmers to swim faster, because the extra depth enables the waves caused by swimmers to break up more easily, thus causing less turbulence for swimmers. The Water Cube is one meter deeper than most swimming pools. The reason why it is only 1 meter deeper and not, say, 20 meters deeper to minimize waves is because swimmers need to be able to see the bottom of the pool to gauge distance. On top of all that, the sides of the pools have perforated gutters to break up waves. Who knew pools were so high tech?
Now that Beijing doesn’t have to host the world Olympics anymore, they have transformed the interior of the pool into a giant water park. Because the entire park is inside, the bubbly blue walls make the entire place look as though it’s underwater. The place really brings out the kid in you. Even as a grown up, it’s hard to look at the place and not feel excitement. This is the type of water park that makes other water parks jealous.
All together, the Water Cube is astonishing whether you view it from the outside or the inside. That’s not really all that surprising, though. Who would expect anything less from a Chinese Olympic building?