Phaeno Science Centre icon 027 | September 2005

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photo: Klemens Ortmeyer photo: Klemens Ortmeyer

words Kieran Long

The Phaeno Science Centre may be Zaha Hadid’s most important building yet. The €79 million (£55m) project, in Wolfsburg in northern Germany, is the most complex free-standing building Hadid’s office has completed.

Phaeno will house a permanent interactive science exhibition. The building is conceived, according to Hadid’s office, “as a mysterious object that encourages curiosity and discovery”.

The building is a huge triangular slab, raised 6m off the ground on concrete cones. This creates a spectacular undercroft that acts as a lobby to the exhibition. The waffle-slab construction also creates a dimpled soffit, and multi-coloured bulbs create a play of light across the underside of the building.

The bases of the cones accommodate kiosks, a bookstore and restaurants, as well as the main entrance. This takes the visitor up to the exhibition level, where there is 7000sq m of display space.

More funnels and craters create an internal landscape that will be filled with 250 interactive exhibits. The level also contains a lecture hall and “laboratories”, where visitors can investigate their own DNA and scrutinise cells through microscopes.

The building is entirely funded by the city of Wolfsburg, and takes its place alongside major buildings by Alvar Aalto and Hans Scharoun in the area. A bridge creates a direct link with Volkswagen’s huge Autostadt museum, on an adjoining site.

The Phaeno Science Centre opens on November 24.

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