Beijing National Aquatics Center (Water Cube)

Beijing National Aquatics Center (Water Cube)

By Carol WangUpdated Nov. 2, 2021

The Beijing National Aquatics, also known as Water Cube, was built as the main natatorium (swimming pool venue) for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and became known as one of the Games' iconic structures. Now it was turned into Ice Cube for the curling venue in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

It is located on Olympic Green, with the Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest), on Beijing's north-south axis.

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Who Designed the Water Cube?

The Water Cube in Beijing was designed by PTW Architects and Ove Arup. Their unique and inspired design, also called [H2O]3 projects, was based on the way soap bubbles come together in a 12- or 14-sided cell structure.

The surface of these “soap bubbles” reflects sunlight and makes the building a watery container glistening in the sunlight”, from which it got its nickname: The Water Cube.

The Beijing Water Cube is about 180meters (600 feet) long and wide and 30meters (100 feet) high and has a capacity of 17,000 seats (6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporaries for the Olympics).

Beijing Water Cube

Design Ideas behind the Water Cube

This seemingly simple "cube" was designed according to traditional Chinese culture as well as modern science and technology. Ancient Chinese believed that heaven was like a dome covering the square earth.

This comes from the traditional Chinese philosophical statement: “天圆地方”(Tian yuan di fang, literally ‘heaven/sky round earth/land square’). Therefore, the square Water Cube complements the round Bird’s Nest in Beijing Olympic Park, embodying this philosophy.

This philosophy was expressed in civilian buildings as well, especially in traditional Hutongs (quadrangle districts) in Beijing.

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What is the  National Aquatics Center Made Of?

Soap Bubbles

The building's exterior uses a new environmentally friendly and energy-saving ETFE (ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene)membrane material with a total surface area of over 100,000 square meters (1,000,000 sq. ft.), making it the world's largest ETFE application project.

The ETFE membrane has a low mass, is tough, and can absorb sunlight with negligible deterioration. It doesn’t ignite spontaneously and has a wonderful self-cleaning function, due to its non-stick surface.

The material can't be stained by dust. When the wind blows, the dust blows away. In addition, the Water Cube also has an environmental function to collect and recycle rainwater.

Rainwater that falls on the Water Cube's roof is collected in a central storage pool below the building.

Interesting Facts about the Water Cube Structure

Water Cube

1. There are more than 3,000 “soap bubbles” on the outer wall of the Beijing National Aquatics Center.

2. It is the largest membrane structure in the world.

3. Its membrane does not need to be replaced if the soap bubbles are punctured. It can be restored with a heat welding repair/patch.

4. The soup-bubble-structure is also the biggest LED-façade building in the world with an electricity-saving (compared to non-LED lights) of around 550,000 kWh/year, which would cost US$70,000 per year.

5. The Beijing Water Cube is considered the fastest Olympic swimming pool in the world. During the 2008 Olympic Games, athletes broke 25 world records there.

6. Without lightning conductors, the Beijing Water Cube’s frame can conduct lightning to the ground safely.

7. The Water Cube has a flexible body that can resist an earthquake of magnitude 8. It is the most seismically-resistant (large) building in the world.

8. The National Aquatics Center covers an area of 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres), but it does not use a single steel I-beam or reinforced concrete column in the outer space frame.

9. The Beijing Water Cube has three huge swimming pools, from which more than a tone of water evaporates per hour.

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What is the Water Cube Used for Now?

After a major transformation following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Beijing Water Cube was turned into a large water amusement park and reopened to the public in August 2010. It is now a multi-functional center for sports, recreation, and fitness.

Beijing Water CubeOlympic Pool
  • Ying Tung Natatorium: Located in the west wing of the National Aquatics Center it hosted Olympic water polo matches and now it is where you can enjoy swimming. The other pools are the Olympic pool and training pool, which are not open to the public at present.
  • The Water Park: is the largest and the best of its kind in China, allowing a functional capacity of 6,000 people. It is equipped with many amusement facilities, such as wave machines, speed slides, and aqua loops.
  • The Waterdrop Theater: covers an area of about 200 square meters (2,000 sq. ft.) and has 150 seats. It plays promotional films about the Olympics and some 3D films that can further enrich visitor experiences.
  • In-theme restaurants and bars: Dining areas with Water Cube characteristics, such as the bubble bar, water Internet bar, water-flow theme restaurant, pottery bar, and book bar.
  • The SPA zone: Located in the northern part of the Beijing Water Cube, there are advanced spa facilities and equipment with a peaceful space environment.
  • The business section: Small function rooms on the third floor can be used for personal or business activities.
  • The multi-functional hall: Located in the west of the National Aquatics Center, with a capacity of 1,000 people, there are three standard indoor tennis courts. It is one of the largest halls of the Beijing Water Cube and it is often used to hold domestic or international exhibitions.
  • The commercial area: is centrally located. There you can see all kinds of things related to its history and Olympic swimming events as well as the latest information about the Beijing Water Cube.
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Ice Cube for the 2022 Winter Olympics

In the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the curling event will be held in the Beijing National Aquatics Center. The Water Cube is undergoing a magnificent transformation into the “Ice Cube”.

Ice Cube for CurlingIce Cube for Curling

The Water Cube has been upgraded to include a curling rink while keeping its swimming pools. A new ice-making system is in place to provide an Olympic-standard curling sheet.

This makes the structure the only stadium in the world that can host both water and ice sports at the same time! See more on 2022 Winter Olympics Venues >>>

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How to Get to the National Aquatics Center  in Beijing

By subway: Take Line 8 and get off at Olympic Sports Center Station. Use Exit B2.

By taxi: Show this phrase to the driver: “请带我去水立方”, which means, “Please take me to the Water Cube.”

By bus: Take bus 81, 82, 86, 510, or 607 to Guojia Tiyuguan (National Stadium) Station. Alternatively, use sightseeing bus line 3 to reach Beichen West Bridge North Station (北辰西桥北站).

Ticket Information

Admission tickets to the National Aquatics Centre are sold at the ticket hall. If you have booked tickets online through any travel agent, e-tickets or e-voucher will be issued to you. At the counter ticket, just present a valid passport along with the voucher number to receive your paper entrance tickets.

For a visit to the Water Cube, the price is CN¥30 per person. For swimming,  CN¥60 per person for 2 hours. A ticket for the Water Park costs from CN¥200–260 subject to the date.

Opening Times

  • June–September: 9:00 am–10:00 pm (last admission 9:30pm)
  • October–May: 9:00 am–7:00 pm (last admission 6:30pm)
  • Waterdrop Theater: 9:30 am–4:45 pm from Tuesday to Sunday

Opening hours are subject to change. You could contact us to confirm before you go.

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Travel Tips:

Water Cube
  • Summer is the peak season for swimming at the National Aquatics Center when local people travel and go out more often. Try to avoid this period of time if you want to enjoy a swim here.
  • It closes without any notice in the case of events. Always check the latest arrangements for the venue.
  • The best view of the Beijing Water Cube and Bird Nest can be seen in the evening. If you wish to take the best photos, make sure you go there at night.
  • There is a little restaurant nearby. It is better to have your meal inside the venue or bring some snacks if needed.
  • Food prices in the water park are higher. A small bottle of water, for example, costs around CN¥10.
  • If you swim, there are locker rentals available at CN¥30. You can check the price and availability at the entrance. A deposit of CN¥20 is charged for the RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much did the Water Cube cost?

The cost of construction of the National Aquatics Center was around $140m. Among the Olympic venues Water Cube is the only building donated by overseas Chinese all over the world. The Beijing National Aquatics Center is the only venue donated by overseas Chinese from all over the world. More than half of the total cost of the project was donated by patriots from Hong Kong.

2. Why was water cube converted into a water theme park after the Olympic Games?

After the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Water Cube was left unused and crumbling long. In order to attract more people’s interest, it was designed to a Water Theme Park. The water park covers 12,000 square meters outfitted with advanced water recreational facilities. You can easily fill the better part of a day here on the many different attractions including multiple speedy slides — fun for all ages.

3. What are the blue “Soap Bubbles “on the Outer Wall?

The shape of "Water Cube" looks like a blue water box, and the outer wall seems formed by irregular bubbles. The bubbles on the surface of the water cube are made of ETFE (ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene).

Come and Marvel at the Beijing Water Cube

Marvel at the super-modern Beijing Water Cube as well as Beijing's medieval wonders, maybe with an “Olympics tour”. Feel free to tell us your interests and requirements, and we will be glad to tailor-make a unique tour for you. You could look through our Beijing tours for some inspiration.

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