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2010/35/1 Sectioned construction model, Beijing National Aquatics Centre or 'Water Cube' with cover, plastic / electrical wiring / internal lighting / wood, made by Micro Model, Beijing, China, 2007. Click to enlarge.

Beijing National Aquatics Centre ‘Water Cube’ construction model

Made in Beijing, China, 2007.
The model is an excellent representation of the important structural and material engineering features of the 'Water Cube' National Aquatic Centre, Beijing, an international innovation with major contributions from Australian architects and engineers. It was constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The model shows the geometry adopted by the structural engineers, the specialised roof and wall cladding material and design, and the sectioned interior of the main foyer.

The model's steel node and bubble representations mimic the geometrical archetype of foam theory as posed by Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson), a leading scientist and 'philosophical engineer' in the nineteenth century, further developed by mathematicians Weaire and Phelan in the late twentieth century, and used directly for the structural engineering design for the Beijing 'Water Cube'.

Des Barrett
Science and Industry
April 2010.


Object No.


Object Statement

Sectioned construction model, Beijing National Aquatics Centre or 'Water Cube' with cover, plastic / electrical wiring / internal lighting / wood, made by Micro Model, Beijing, China, 2007

Physical Description

Sectioned construction model, Beijing National Aquatics Centre or 'Water Cube' with cover, plastic / electrical wiring / internal lighting / wood, made by Micro Model, Beijing, China, 2007

The model is covered with an acrylic case.

The white panels, which have multi-coloured LED lights, are located on the left-hand side and at the rear of the model. These panels are screwed to the cover.

The model is sectioned at the front elevation, which allows a direct view of the internal architecture and engineering structures. The tubular steel structures and their connecting nodes can be seen from all viewing angles, as can the hexagonal structures that dominate the roof of the Water Cube.

Scaled human figures are located randomly on the ground and first floors.

Excluding the sectioned portion of the model, the roof, rear, left-hand side wall and internal wall linings have been clad in double-layered ETFE material.

The model can be operated (i.e. by lighting the rear, left-hand side, internal walls, and roof) by pressing a button.



630 mm


530 mm



Beijing, China 2007


The model was made for ARUP by Micro Model, Beijing, China, in late 2007 and shipped to Australia early in 2008. It was kept by ARUP for office display during the Olympic games and delivered to the Museum in October 2008 and prepared for Museum display in December. The model's individual maker(s) is unknown.

The Museum's Interactives section designed, made, and installed the following: John Hirsch, electronics engineer (electronics for the two white panels that house the LED lights, and the electronic controller that regulates the lighting sequence); Geoff Drane, senior preparator (made the housing for the electronics and the lighting, carried out structural repairs on the model, and assembled various components); Krister Gustafsson, industrial designer (designed the acrylic showcase, lighting panels and associated electronics).



The history of the model's ownership and display prior to the Museum's acquisition of it has been provided in the Production section. Details of how the Museum became aware of and got interested in the model will be provided in this section. A brief history of the subject to which the model relates can be found in the Narratives section.

The model was made for professional use, chiefly to assist the ARUP engineers to model their Water Cube designs in physical space, to show a sectioned internal layout of a front corner of the Water Cube, to visualise the ETFE blue cladding on the structural steel tubes, and for promotional display. The Museum added a number of multi-coloured LED lights that were intended to provide a context for the changing hues that occur on the Water Cube during a twenty-four hour period.

In September 2008, the curator, exhibition designer, and the interactive exhibits section, were approached by the Sydney Division of Engineers Australia with a request to make a selection of six exhibits from the many entries received and judged for an award in the annual Engineering Excellence Awards program, which could be displayed at the Museum. The six exhibits were duly chosen, with each representing a project in one of the many award categories assigned by Engineers Australia.

One of the formal conditions negotiated between the Museum and the Sydney Division is that the Bradfield Award winner is automatically selected for display, on the basis that the Bradfield Award winner is judged to be an accomplishment of exceptional engineering merit. In 2008, the Bradfield Award was the National Aquatics Centre, Beijing, known by its popular name as the 'Water Cube'.

The model was displayed at the Museum in the 2008 Engineering Excellence exhibition between December 2008 and January 2010.


Credit Line

Gift of ARUP, 2010

Acquisition Date

25 May 2010

Cite this Object


Beijing National Aquatics Centre 'Water Cube' construction model 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 11 July 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Beijing National Aquatics Centre 'Water Cube' construction model |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=11 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in EcoLogic at the Powerhouse Museum.

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