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The Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, was constructed as the primary venue for swimming events during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It is widely recognized as one of the Games’ iconic structures. Today, it has been transformed into the Ice Cube for the curling event of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The venue is situated on Olympic Green, located on Beijing’s north-south axis alongside the Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest).

The Water Cube was designed by PTW Architects and Ove Arup, whose unique and inspired design, also known as the [H2O]3 project, 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, creating a watery container that glistens in the sunlight, from which it got its nickname: The Water Cube.

The Beijing Water Cube has a length and width of about 180 meters (600 feet) and a height of 30 meters (100 feet), with a seating capacity of 17,000 (6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary for the Olympics). This seemingly simple “cube” was designed according to traditional Chinese culture as well as modern science and technology. The ancient Chinese believed that heaven was like a dome covering the square earth, which is expressed in 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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