The Beijing Rings Coffee is located at the second floor of the northern building inside the National Aquatics Center (the Water Cube). This is not a café in a usual sense, but has been crowd-funded by sports celebrities to create a meeting place for themselves and financial VIPs, to promote the development and prosperity of Chinese sports industry. The Beijing Rings Coffee officially opened in the eighth anniversary year in 2016 after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
The café is destined to be unique. Before 2022, the National Aquatics Center will turn from “Water Cube” to “Ice Cube”. After aquatic sports events have been held here during the Summer Olympics, it will be transformed to a curling venue for The 2022 Winter Olympics. The café not only functions as a social platform for sports elite, but also serves as a warm-up for the Winter Olympic Games. Therefore, the design of the café is to reinterpret the original concepts of the Water Cube, and at the same time transitions the venue from water to ice.
The project has been quite design-driven. The café does not need to be extravagant or luxurious, but it strives to be "the number one" in its own kind, purpose and significance. Once a place has been given a spirit, people would just come for it, and in turn they add new ideas, stories and vitality to the place. That would collectively become enduring memories. People’s recognition of the place also goes beyond its original functionality, because the functionality can be duplicated but the culture cannot. The place thus becomes irreplaceable.
There are several important halls inside the Beijing Rings Coffee. The Water Hall is interpreted with refracted light and color from rainbow, with water drops and stars. The atmosphere inside the Water Hall is magical, just as in the wonderland. This is the hall where people have coffee or snacks. There are main service bar counter, a series of colorful semi-enclosed box areas, two semi-enclosed lounge areas for big groups, a children’s play area, and an exhibition area. The space adopts fashionably designed furniture with matching colors to each area to exhibit an overall modern look.
The Ice Hall is a world of ice and snow, with the pure colors of icy blue and frosted white. It contains a conference hall, a lecture hall, and a media interview area. The wall between the conference hall and the lecture hall is retractable; it can be opened, joining the two spaces to form a large multi-functional space. From a neutral gray background, the icicle crystals hang from the ceiling and extrude from the walls, forming a unique ambience. The choice of furniture highlights the ice theme, and the tailor-made platform itself looks as a pure ice sculpture.
Both the Water Hall and the Ice Hall are well lit by diffused natural light. The full-height glass windows facing the Olympic Competition Pool Hall introduce the views of the competition pool hall and natural light into the interior.
Two small dining rooms are “dimmed”. Distinctive and simple colors, lighting, and furnishings all revolve around the concept of ice and water.
The Five-ring Corridor connects the Water Hall and the Ice Hall. There is a crowd-funding shareholders’ locker wall on one side, and five rooms used for more private talks and meetings on the other. Each room is named Yellow ring, Green ring, Blue ring, Purple ring and Orange ring for their respective theme colors.
The café’s envelop is arranged in flexible and dynamic ways, forming a series of display areas of different widths, where display contents can be updated by activities and events of the Water Cube venue.
The basic concept of the design is extremely simple, to interpret ice and water in a new ‘Water Cube’ langrage. The most delicate qualities of ice and water are their light and color. In combination with the function of coffee, warm gray from walls, floors, to ceilings constitutes the neutral color backdrop of the space, while a large set of ice and water themed installation are superimposed onto it. The architectural concept is based on the micro-structure of a water molecule. The installation is a deformation of it with the help of parametric computing technique and constructed with aluminum frames and transparent colored membrane.
The transparent membrane allows light to penetrate and projects colors onto the adjacent gray walls, renders a lustrous and dazzling effect. The membrane is deliberately fritted in some areas, to achieve a matt finish and to avoid glare directly into people’s eyes.
The installation can fit in the full-height space from floor to ceiling as a special medium (color box areas in the Water Hall) ; can hang down from the ceiling as the ice sculptures (lecture hall area in the Ice Hall) ; can extrude from the floor and become small camp , where children can sit and play within (children’s area in Water Hall). Everyone can find his/ her own spot here, and discover the beauty and joy being with ‘ice’ and ‘water’.