Even though the next World Championships are over a year away, the internet is buzzing with searches over Shanghai 2011. It’s no surprise, given the impressiveness of the massive aquatics complex that is being constructed to house them.
Though in the United States, the trend has been towards erecting pools inside of large, pre-existing arenas, other countries with less aquatics infrastructure in place takes advantage of the opportunity to build large-scale stadiums and complexes that are both architecturally dazzling and capable of hosting large international meets over the long-term.
Shanghai’s Oriental Sports Center (recently renamed from Shanghai Aquatics Sports Center) follows the trend of creating swimming facilities that are not only world-class in the pool, but are also architectural wonders. This includes Beijing’s “Water Cube,” which was constructed for the 2008 Olympics, and London’s Olympic Aquatics Centre, which looks as though a stingray landed on top of a spaceship.

The Shanghai facility, designed by German architecture firm GMP, will include an indoor arena seating 18,000, an indoor pool seating 5,000, and an outdoor pool seating 5,000. The main swimming events will be in the large facility, which will be converted to a multi-purpose arena after the games. The other events, including synchronized swimming and water polo, will likely be held in the smaller natatoriums.

One of the more unique features of the facility is the outdoor diving facility, which will be constructed on a man-made lake that connects to the Huangpu River. The stadium is designed to look like a wave crashing into a beach on the shore of the lake. The large arena will also be designed to look like dozens of waves crashing into the lake.

he complex, which is slated to be completed in December 2010 or January 2011, will cost 2-billion yuan (USD $293 million). The entire facility will cover 347,500 sq. feet in Eastern Shanghai, along the massive Huangpu river, and will officially open in July 2011. This is just in time for the World Aquatics Championships that will take place from July 16-31, 2011. The pool is built right next to the Shanghai World Expo Center, which is along the newly constructed “Line 13″ on Shanghai’s Metro.

While designing and building the facility, engineers and architects included many innovative features. In addition to the standard energy savings that are the buzz of the architecture world these days, the SOSC will use water from the artificial lake as a source for pool-water heating. The facility will also strive to make use of a lot of natural light and natural ventilation, to eliminate the noxious lights and chlorine odors that accompany most natatoriums.

The coolest features, pun intended, from a fans point of view will be an under-seat air conditioning system underneath the spectator zone.