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phæno, Wolfsburg: experience architecture
Zaha Hadid’s exploratorium
Zaha Hadid’s avant-garde design for phæno in Wolfsburg has become a reality. After construction work lasting over four years, her revolutionary, convention-defying building was officially inaugurated on 24 November 2005 and opened to the public the following day. Zaha Hadid is a London-based, Pritzker Prize-winning architect whose concept for this building could never have been realised if it had not been for state-of-the-art building materials and the international team.
Zaha Hadid’s exhibition hall design, with its conical ‘feet’ and sublime lighting, emerged as the clear winner of an international competition in the year 2000. Hadid has created a truly impressive home for phæno. Enthroned high above street-level, it liberates the ground below as a new kind of urban space, a covered artificial landscape with undulating hills and valleys. Its interior, seven metres above the ground, accommodates an architectural adventure playground, a wonderland of craters, caverns, terraces and plateaus, where 250 phæno stations offer exciting explorations into science and technology.
Hadid’s design necessitated a shift away from conventional architectural thinking in terms of supports, girders and roofing, calling instead for a sculptural, three-dimensional ‘one-piece’ moulding. Building such a complex structure was as much a feat of logistics as a masterpiece of structural engineering. In contrast to the widely used, standard method of building with concrete, mostly with the help of flat formwork systems, phæno makes extensive use of individually fabricated elements and a special concrete which is cast in-situ. The building is still the largest in Europe made from self-compacting concrete and is certain to become a major point of reference. Without this new type of concrete, phæno’s diverse forms would have been extremely difficult to achieve. This project will go down in history as a trailblazing triumph of architecture.
This is not only a place where learning is fun. It’s also a science discovery centre of international stature, offering an impressive 9,000 square metres of exploration space right next to the InterCityExpress train station and opposite Volkswagen’s Autostadt. The building could not be a more graphic reflection of the phæno experience – an exploratorium without clear boundaries, movement in built form, curiosity captured. The joys of discovery – phæno is a new landmark for innovative Wolfsburg.