Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Man vs. Wild

When I first saw the renderings of this building I immediately thought about blowing bubbles in chocolate milk as a kid. As a designer I guess inspiration can come from anywhere and sometimes the most unexpected things yield fantastic results. I’ll let the engineer and architects describe it as it may seem like a simple concept but the execution required some serious thought….

Its structural design is based on the most effective sub-division of three-dimensional space – the fundamental arrangement of organic cells and the natural formation of soap bubbles. This naturally-occurring arrangement contributed to this seeming random generation of structure, but it is in fact a solution that is extremely repetitive and highly buildable - removing the usual architectural inspiration that defines extreme geometry in building design, thus nature beats technology.

The design of the Water Cube is derived from theoretical physics, and the steel frame that encompasses this aquatic centre is based on what is known as the
Weaire-Phelan structure, which describes the most efficient way to divide space. This is in fact the same way that bubbles form in foam. Whereas soap bubbles can be divided into two shapes - three quarters of the cells have 14 sides and the remainder have twelve - the engineering solution to make the Water Cube a reality requires over a hundred different ones. However, in spite of their seeming randomness, bubbles always touch each other with a regular geometry and it is this simple fact that makes the design feasible.

This abstraction of a natural phenomenon into a geometric form gives the building a direct relationship to nature while satisfying the rationality of human thought and order. It is this thin line that some of the most exciting and groundbreaking architecture seems to be located. It is only with a scientific and analytical abstraction that we can harness the wealth of knowledge hidden in nature to create more sustainable and interesting world.

National Swimming Centre2008 OlympicsBeijing, China
By PTW CCDI and Arup

more images here

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