The Water Cube or where all that is solid melts into luminous bubbles/*
Beijing’s Aquatic Center constructed for the 2008 Olympics, aptly nicknamed the “Water Cube”, is a neo-Baroque folly whose skin consists of inflatable PVC bubbles wired with LEDs. As this video attests, the Water Cube emerges from the cityscape as a glowing, perpetually morphing mirage, casually radiating wonder amidst the more ordinary architecture of streetlights, trees, and apartment buildings. It is a hybrid entity that is both media and urban object – a 3 dimensional LED wall transformed into a building, or a gigantic inflatable light art installation put to public use. The Water Cube also participates in a neon aesthetic that has transformed the nighttime urban landscape from Vegas to Burning Man, to Wong Kar Wai’s movies, returning us to the industrial fascination for artificial lighting, recalling the phantasmagoria of the Electricity Pavillion at the 1900 World Fair. To what future avatar of the city does the Water Cube point to? The city as a topography of dimensional live, reactive, interactive wallpaper? An erasure of shape, the evaporation of mass into glittering, diaphanous texture? What is life in the Water Cube – a dream, a journey into hallucinatory spaces, a fairy tale, a series of sensorial electrocutions, a diversion, a hypnotic well?
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