olympic watercube

courtesy: PTW
australian architectural firm - ptw -
wins international design competition for beijing olympics

an international design competition to create the national swimming centre for the 2008 beijing olympics has been won by the australian architectural firm of ptw.

ptw’s managing director, john bilmon, recently returned from china, following intensive negotiations with the beijing state-owned assets management co. ltd, to cement the appointment which must surely rate as one of the most significant bench-marks for australian architecture on an international scale.

announced as one of three finalists, alongside entries from the us and china, ptw’s win follows a lengthy process that commenced with submissions from ten international architectural teams, culminating in a public exhibition and vote. a panel of leading design experts from around the world completed the detailed judging procedure.

“this is a tremendous honour and we are undeniably thrilled and excited,” said bilmon.

“to have been selected amongst such stellar company, and including a submission from one of china’s own leading architectural firms, is testament to the hard work undertaken by the ptw team and the engineering firm, arup, as well as the vision of the chinese government and its people toward creating the best olympic games possible”, added bilmon.

ptw’s design, known as the ‘watercube’, plays on the geometry of water bubbles, fantastically crystallised as a massive rectangular form. the structure’s elemental shape is specifically designed to work in harmony with the circular main stadium, both of which will rise on the beijing olympic green in a spectacular duality of forms.

“our successful concept owes much to our chinese team partners, and particularly the china state construction and engineering corporation (cscec) and design institute who effectively planted the seed of an idea that has ultimately captured the imagination of the chinese people”, said andrew frost, director, ptw.

ptw, which currently employs over 150 people, maintains offices in sydney, australia as well as both beijing and shanghai in china. while the company is highly regarded for its major civic projects and large scale sports facilities, including involvement in the international athletics centre and the aquatic centre of the 2000 sydney games, ptw’s strong and existing relationship with the chinese played a pivotal role in the development process.

the internationally renowned engineering firm of arup also played a strategic part in solving the deceptively simple, yet complex equation. arup is highly regarded as a world leader in engineering, responsible for such gravity defying structures as the guggenheim museum, bilbao, spain, and australia’s own sydney opera house.

“our ‘watercube’ concept is a simple and concise square form that ultimately uses the water bubble theory to create the structure and building cladding, and which makes the design so unique.

“it appears random and playful like a natural system, yet is mathematically very rigorous and repetitious. the transparency of water, with the mystery of the bubble system, engages those both inside and out of the structure to consider their own experiences with water”, said frost.

the building’s skin, made from an innovative and lightweight transparent ‘teflon’, abbreviated as etfe, has been designed to react specifically to lighting and projection – and particularly the advanced systems which will become available in the coming four years – to create a stunning visual and sensory experience that will also be shared by millions of television viewers around the world. this state-of-the-art material provides a cost effective cladding solution for modern architecture, enabling a wide range of applications where traditional materials, such as glass, may not be possible.

according to kenneth ma, arup’s mechanical engineer, “swimming centres require a lot of heating, but by cladding the building in high-tech etfe cushions, we have developed a very efficient green house.

“90% of the solar energy falling on the building is trapped within the structural zone and is used to heat the pools and the interior area”, added ma.

”ultimately, however, the concept is fun”, said frost. “like in sydney, the facility will be used prior and post games as a multi-purpose leisure and elite swimming centre. ‘watercube’ proposes an exciting experience for all ages who will come to enjoy the water, swimming, gym, ice-skating, cinema and club facilities well into the future”, said frost.

construction of the 17,000 seat national swimming centre, beijing, which covers a total floor space of over 70,000 square metres, is expected to commence this december 2003, with completion forecast for late 2006.
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