The Water Cube / MVRDV

MVRDV shared with us their design of The Water Cube, a pavilion for the World Expo 2012 in Yeosu, Korea. The theme of the Expo is “The Living Ocean and Coast”. You can see more proposals for the thematic pavilion by Ginseng Chicken, PTA, and Nicoletti Associati.

More images and architect’s description after the break.


World expos are fantastic. In the literal meaning. They show man kinds fantasies. They allow for this great opportunity to express excitement and admiration. The past has given a series of true world wonders that express that rare combination of entertainment and education, of research and achievement, like the Eifel Tower in Paris, the Sphere at the NY expo, the Montreal Habitat building, Buckminsterfullers dome in Montreal. What to add to this history? Can the chosen theme lead to a new powerful object?


The world expo in Yeosu focuses on the power and beauty of the oceans. How to express that the best? Could it be done by – simply- making a pure visible block of water that obviously expresses the beauty and the power? A block that is extracted from the ocean.


This block is hollowed out, to create a great water space, where one is surrounded by water. Along the sides, above and below. Where light filters through and give every activity a glance. That can be used for the exhibitions, the gatherings, during and after the world expo. One is in the water.


The water cube is constructed out of a surrounding wall with a series of water basins that are stacked on top of each other. Based on the maximum structural capacities of the glass facades and floors. It allows showing all the different aspects of the oceans! The façade turns into a mini museum, into a library of the oceans!


Thus the central water space turns into a cathedral like space that celebrates the oceans. With all the environmental differences in the world. The deep sea, the tropical parts, the mangroves, the reefs, etcetera.


The basins are organized like a world map. So that any different sea can be shown and positioned clearly: the polar seas on top and the bottom, and the tropical parts in the middle. The coast lines of the contents are clearly expressed on the facade. They separate the ocean aquaria from the dryer coastal terrarium within the continents.


The walls between the basins and the coastal walls together with the ramping track form the structural web in which the water basins can be positioned. The continents have more closed elements in the façade and thus contain the stability elements. The roof is constructed with 5 meter high beams that span from the supporting web towards the centre of the roof: the North Pole.


The refreshment between the basins is organized in such a manner that it simulates the movements of the oceans. The cleaning devices are positioned in between the basins. Thus the ocean ecology is expressed and used.


The skin of the building is designed out of four layers of glass, with water in between. The fresh sea water from outside is constantly pumped into the basin to keep the circulation through the building. Thus the water basins are used as a natural temperature adapter for the hall of the oceans. This simulates the temperature role of the ocean for the planet.

The skin contains elements to control the raise of temperature for the basins. These elements contain rolling curtains to control the UV penetration, and solar PV cells to create energy for the water circulation and the light of the building.


A ramping path that is accessible for handicapped climbs along the facades of the cube. It serpentines through the different basins with the different environments. It becomes a track though the oceans richness. It turns the skin into a library and into a museum.


One can access the building from the dam, via an underwater tube that ends at the South Pole, where it appears in the bottom floor. Glass lifts and stairs are designed penetrating the water basin.


At the entrance hall people are guided in to the lifts that bring the visitors up to the top floor. On the top floor the visitors are guided towards the North Pole bar with a spectacular view over the expo. From here one can find its journey along the basins, via the main oceans track or via the stairs and lifts, easily descending from the top to the bottom. One ends in the main hall that gives the spectacular overview over all the experiences that can be seen as the introduction for the exhibits and gatherings in the hall of the oceans. Via an escalator the visitor goes down via the South Pole to the pipe that leads him or her to the main land.


The different basins are illuminated each in its specific way according to the demands. A pattern of light can be created according the day and night pattern of the planet. Thus the water cube becomes a true endlessly changing magic water lantern.


This design allows for a flexible usage afterwards, while keeping the memory of the expo. This hall can turn easily be adapted to a theatre, a concert hall into a ceremonial space, into a museum, even it could become an office building, a town hall.

About this author
Cite: Sebastian Jordana. "The Water Cube / MVRDV" 17 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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