Phæno Science Center, Wolfsburg, Germany
The phæno Science Center is conceived as an object of mystery, due to its unusual volumetric structural logic. The visitor is faced with apparent complexity and strangeness, underneath which lies a specific organisational system.
It is located at the endpoint of a chain of important cultural buildings, and is linked to the north bank of the MittellandKanal – Volkswagen’s Autostadt. Multiple pathways for pedestrian and vehicular movement lead through the site, over the artificial ground landscape and through the building. The main volume of the building, raised high above the ground on a series of concrete cones, maintains a large degree of transparency and porosity. The ground beneath is an open public space that connects the two halves of the town.
A crater-like landscape inside the open exhibition space allows diagonal views of different levels, while protruding volumes accommodate other functions. A glazed wormhole-style extension of the existing bridge flows through the building, allowing views to and from the exhibition space.
The sublimely illuminated space, resting on conic supports, emerged victorious from an international competition in 2000. It liberates the area beneath as a new urban space, in the form of a covered artificial landscape with undulating hills and valleys. Light and shadow provide a visual guiding system through the building by creating paths of light and focal points.
Its interior opens up an architectural playground, a wonderland of craters, caverns, terraces and plateaux. The building houses 250 informative exhibits from the world of science and technology, offering the chance to deepen knowledge while having fun.
The complex geometries of the design called for sculptural, plastic moulding, rather than conventional architectural materials and supports. In contrast to the standard method of concrete building – mostly flat formwork – phæno is distinguished by its use of individually fabricated elements and special cast in situ concrete.
phæno is the largest building constructed from self-compacting concrete in Europe and is significant as a reference object. Without the new type of concrete, the diverse forms of phæno – its jagged angles, looming curves, fractured planes and daring protrusions – would have been difficult to achieve.
phæno is as much a place of leisure and recreation as of learning. It combines informative scientific displays with a futuristic architectural design. Its form is programmatic: it recognises no distinct boundaries, and hopes to promote experimentation and discovery. The dynamic structure of this experimental environment is constructed animation, curiosity made concrete. In phæno the city of Wolfsburg has a vibrant new landmark.