Beijing’s Happy Magic Water Cube

It’s no secret that cities who host the Olympics often find it difficult to maintain or reinvent their once-in-a-lifetime sporting facilities. Even though I grew up as a competitive swimmer, I still find it pretty difficult to imagine an Olympic swimming pool booked with year-round competitions and packed with throngs of avid fans overflowing in the bleachers.

Many of these conversions seem like they just don’t tread water…

Atlanta's Olympic Pool Conversion

Atlanta’s Olympic Pool Conversion

Seem like they can’t hold water…

Moscow's Olympic Pool Conversion

Moscow’s Olympic Pool Conversion

Seem to flounder…

Seoul's Olympic Pool Conversion

Seoul’s Olympic Pool Conversion

Seems to really deep-end…

Barcelona's Olympic Pool Conversion

Barcelona’s Olympic Pool Conversion

It’s not that the pools are fishy (okay, I swear I am done), it’s just that their conversions are merely updates for the same kind of swimming competitions: a single-purpose. They rely on a local univeristy or national sports circuit to survive and they remain, at best, bleacher seating surrounding a chlorinated hole in the ground.

And then there was the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which gave us the Water Cube, a functional urban sculpture:

flickr courtesy of Jean Big Cat

flickr courtesy of Jean Big Cat

flickr courtesy of capelle79

flickr courtesy of capelle79

flickr courtesy of Jonas in China

flickr courtesy of Jonas in China

More boringly known as the Beijing National Aquatics Center, it was designed and built by PTW Architects, Arup Engineering, and CCDI Architecture, and took four years and about $150 million to construct. The fantastic semi-transparent and highly-effecient skin of bubbles is made of ETFE plastic supported by a thin steel space frame. The combination of materials makes it lightweight, energy effecient, and allows for the application of some pretty cool lighting effects. The form of the skin was actually adapted from the complex pattern that adjoining bubbles make when sliced, creating a sort of molecularmimicry.

But it’s not just the architecture, it’s what Beijing did with the water cube after the Olympics that’s interesting: in 2009, it was converted into an indoor waterpark. More specifically and not so boringly known as the Happy Magic Water Cube:

beijing water park watercube map

Unfortunately, the ticket price is about 200RMB, or about US$32.00. While 32 bucks doesn’t sound so bad, you have to consider that the median income in Beijing is about US$10,538 per year. That would make one waterpark ticket the equivalent of about US$1,538 for your average New Yorker!

Besides waterparks, perhaps these facilities could also be converted into giant wavepools, too?

OlympicPool surfing competition

What’s next, surfing in the Olympics? Eh, I doubt it.

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3 Comments on “Beijing’s Happy Magic Water Cube”

  1. shelby wallis June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    how much is it to go to happy magic water cube


    • alexsommer June 13, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      Hi Shelby, at last look, the entrance ticket cost about 200RMB, which is about £19


  2. Studious November 15, 2015 at 6:57 am #

    This is actually really engaging thought on negotiation of urban political economical and global consequence. It almost makes me want to write a thesis on this particular project! Thank you for the engaging thought.


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