Water Cube scoops the pool at project management awards

09 Sep 2008

The Olympic Games may be over but the Beijing National Aquatics Centre (the Water Cube) has again taken centre stage, with design consultants Arup picking up two awards for project managing the Arup design team for the iconic building.

Arup won the Construction/Engineering Award Category, and the overall Project of the Year Award at last week’s Australian Institute of Project Management NSW Awards.

In 2003 Arup, PTW architects and China Construction Design Institute (CCDI) won an international design competition to create the Water Cube. From this point Arup’s project managers led the way directing an Arup team of more than 100 engineers and specialists, spread across 20 disciplines and four countries.

The Arup project management team – based in Sydney - was applauded for success in leading and coordinating the design process, and managing both internal and external interfaces. This approach led to delivery of the design from competition stage through to a fully approved scheme in just 12 weeks. The fast-track program continued through to the official opening of the Water Cube in January this year – on time and on budget.

“Timing was one of the most challenging aspects of the project,” said Rob Leslie-Carter, leader of Arup’s Water Cube project management team. “There was a non-negotiable end date, with the building having to be ready for the Games, but we had to deal with many other major timing issues along the way.

“An understanding of how Olympic events would be operated, how the many operational streams must be linked, how to balance the needs of stakeholders, and how the venue was to sit within the wider Olympic organisational framework were key to meeting these challenges.”

As well as delivering a fully coordinated scheme design, Arup’s project managers had to seamlessly hand over the design to its Chinese design partners for detailing, while ensuring that the technical approvals were secured and that the innovative design was understood, accepted and constructed safely.

“The Water Cube was a bridge for cultural exchanges and deepened the understanding, trust and friendship among the project team members and stakeholders from Australia and China,” said Mr Leslie-Carter.

“This was only achievable by establishing and maintaining absolute clarity of the design vision, communicating that vision to project stakeholders with differing cultural expectations, and the outstanding collaboration between Arup, PTW Architects and CCDI.”

In the short time since its opening, the Water Cube has become an icon of a ‘new Beijing’. The venue amazed visitors and inspired athletes at the 2008 Olympic Games, and has left a lasting legacy for Arup, the project stakeholders, and the people of Beijing and China – a world class, sustainable aquatics centre made from a box of bubbles.

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Ellen Lee
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