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The 2008 Beijing Olympics will have the largest and most unusual swimming centre ever built, putting real pressure on designer Arup to use the most cutting edge tools available.

The Water Cube was inspired by the shape of an array of soap bubbles and while appearing random and organic is actually highly repetitive and buildable. To take advantage of this repetition a comprehensive 3D structural model was created and imported directly into the Strand7 modelling package. Using Strand7, Arup was able to make significant savings by keeping the weight of the building to a minimum without sacrificing strength. Each of the 24,000 beam elements, subject to 200 load combinations, was checked at five points against 13 different equations in the Chinese structural code. Every member and node had the potential to be different, so considerable optimisation processing was required. But all this optimisation was automated within Excel, so it did not require particularly sophisticated computer programming or languages.

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