How can the Beijing National Aquatics Centre be understood in relation to ‘form’?

Part A – Abstract


The names National Aquatics Centre, Water Cube, and Beijing national Aquatics Centre refer to one and the same thing. It refers to an aquatics centre that was constructed alongside the Beijing National Stadium to aid in the swimming competitions held during the Summer Olympics of 2008.

Topic/ Question

How does morphology as well as the impact of new technology and innovation have reflected on the Beijing national Aquatics Centre.

Background information

The building uses PTW with ETFE to create a unique and lightweight building. Therefore, creating a structure of ‘water’ in the state of aggregation of foam. In addition, the randomization appearance skins the geometry that can be found in crystals and cells. The building uses materials that visual striking, energy efficient and ecologically friendly. The Water Cube, therefore, embraces a design which reflects a form of water in an urban set-up but embedding principles of traditional Chinese architecture using the latest technologies to achieve this. As a consequence it creates a cross-pollination of ideas between culture, architecture and engineering principles, making the Water Cube entirely unique.

Statement defining the topic

The Beijing national Aquatics Centre is regarded as an exceptional Chinese cultural traditions’ coalescence, where the built environment embraces rectilinearity and axial arrangements. According to Auerbach,[1] the present Western trends in regard to asymmetric organic structures and forms are founded on its nature.

Plan of coverage

l  The morphology and morphogenesis theory

l  The molecular structure of water

l  The impact of structural system and the use of exterior material

l  The impact of spatial interior related to membrane structure


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 in total thickness. [2] Unlike traditional stadium structures with gigantic columns and beams, cables and back spans, to which a facade system is applied, in the water cube design the architectural space; structure and facade are one and the same element.


The concept of Water Cube combines the symbolism of the square in Chinese culture and the natural structure of soap bubbles translated into architectural form.

Part B Analytical Diagrams


[1] Auerbach, Jeffrey A. The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display.( New Haven: Yale, 1999).

[2]Best of What’s New 2006 – Engineering“.( Popular Science , 2006), 269 (6): 84–85.



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