The Water Cube, Bubble-Clad Olympic Wonder
Though its design has been criticized by some as "not Chinese enough," the building, which was designed in cooperation with a Chinese design institute, is modeled in part on the rectilinear shapes of traditional Chinese architecture: Beijing's courtyard homes, the old city wall, and the Forbidden City are all rectangular in shape. Meanwhile, says Pauline, the Cube balances out the Olympic green, serving as yin to the stadium's yang. "There's this real tension in duality that begins to occur. I think it happens in a really good way," he says. Since it started, the building has garnered a bevy of awards, including one from Popular Science and the Venice Biennial.
Water is, naturally, also a focus of the building's sustainability efforts. A rainwater collection system gathers 10,000 cubic meters of the wet stuff each year, while a recycling system reuses 80% of the building's water. That's crucial in drought-plagued Beijing, which has less water per person than Israel.
Indeed, the Water Cube serves as the symbolic centerpiece of the Olympic committee's "Green Olympics" campaign, which may be as much of a propaganda job as it is a valuable consciousness-raising effort.
Altogether the Olympic venues are said to have a combined 121 water-efficiency projects, saving a total of over 1 million tons of water per year, and feature a plethora of energy-efficient measures like solar panels and light piping that help the buildings exceed new national energy standards.
But even if the "Green Olympics" are a green wash -- and some Olympic teams aren't taking their chances -- the Water Cube will likely stand out as a luminous model of green design, and one that won't fade with the closing ceremonies.
Discovery Channel has video...
... and so does Arup.
Photos courtesy of Arup, PTW, China.org.cn, Chris Bosse and the Daily Mail.