issue 04 Phæno Science Centre

issue 04 Phæno Science Centre


Phæno Science Centre Wolfsburg Germany

Zaha Hadid


Project Phæno Science Centre Location Wolfsburg, Germany Architecture Zaha Hadid Architects & Mayer Bahrle Freie Architekten Project Architect Christos Passas (ZHA) Structural Engineers Adams Kara Taylor with Tokarz Frerichs Leipold Project Engineer Paul Scott (AKT) with Lothar Leipold (TFL) Services Consultant NEK & Buro Happold Concrete Contractor Heitkamp Lighting Contractor Fahlke & Dettmer, Germany; Office for Visual Interaction, USA Photographer Helene Binet

issue 04 Phæno Science Centre ≥ Zaha Hadid .

ready to scoot at a moment’s warning. the cones are locked in place by the weight of the distorted concrete box they support. With spans up to 50 metres between the irregularly distributed cones and with significant cantilevers reaching out to the building’s perimeter.” Hadid says. with the public plaza in between. At one point the pavement rises to meet the bookstore entrance. a tram terminus. terraces and plateaus in which to explore thrilling themes from the world of science and technology. the project represented a unique challenge. ≥ ≥ For here. Hans Scharoun and Peter Schweger it is distinctly of today and of a style conjured only in Hadid’s extreme imagination. they also depend on the slab for restraint. a 15. looming curves. within timber formwork in which it would have been difficult to use traditional compacting methods. Through some of these funnels the interior of the box is accessible – others are used to lighten the space inside. with walls twice as thick” Scott says. a conference room. “The building is fooling itself a lot of the time. The cone walls are inclined up to 50º which blurs the boundary between walls and floors. she has delivered the goods with this. AKT’s Paul Scott. ruled by a very specific system based on an unusual volumetric structural logic. The new technology came in the form of self-compacting concrete in which chemical additives are introduced into the concrete mix. not only with the raised exhibition space twisting in plan within a distorted 150metre x 90metre grid. broken down and engineered as separate structural systems which. with their geometry undefined. “Phæno combines formal and geometric complexity with structural audacity and material authenticity. this massive grid structure stands in stark contrast to the fluid simplicity of the museum’s concrete floors and walls. “The Phæno is the most ambitious and complete statement of our quest for complex and dynamic fluid spaces. seamless insitu concrete – as much landscape as architecture – comprising the 12. “The visitor is faced with a degree of complexity and strangeness.” Whatever you make of Hadid’s architectural gymnastics. A sinuous blue strip embedded in the pavement guides pedestrians through the plaza toward a narrow bridge crossing the canal into Wolfsburg. Hadid conjured an undulating pedestrian plaza where the pavement ramps and dives to direct different paths of circulation. void and structure.000 cubic metres of self-compacting concrete.” JR . Propped on ten giant cones of steel reinforced concrete eight metres above an open public space connecting the two halves of the city.” Scott says.000sqm main exhibition space above. caverns. visitors are transported up and into an architectural interactive adventure playground where floors meld seamlessly into walls. Slung over the interior’s column-free landscape. for heavily reinforced walls just 300mm thick. girders and roofing.” This blurring also occurs in the relationship between the cone and the slab. a 250-seat theatre and the museum entrance inside the largest of them. but also with the tapering and leaning cones adding eccentric loads into an already complex equation. Continuous concrete supply was also crucial for the big pours. and the 2004 Pritzker Prize for Architecture.” she says. to discover an inhabited landscape of craters. And what a building! What Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim did for Bilbao. has made real in an actual building architectural ideas that previously could only be guessed at through her wild and fanciful paintings. when combined. slab and façade act together as a single structure. the building’s diverse plastic forms – its jagged angles. while some of them house necessary functions. while the other four pierce the floorplate to sustain the complex swooping steel framework supporting the roof. Hadid conceived the three spaces “of a piece” involving constructional realization that had been previously unattainable in the conventional terms of supports. using AKT’s finite element analysis software. Since the building was designed to appear as a single mass – to simultaneously create space. Entering on a soaring escalator. a ski jump and a small museum. “Without self-compacting concrete.000sqm underground carpark. an extra-planetary mothership maybe or a mysterious creature come to check out the lie of the land. would have produced a significantly over-designed structure. The cones also act to house functional spaces like a bookstore. After a string of seminal works – among them a fire station. Floors are neither piled above each other nor could they be seen as a single volume…the mass is supported and also structured by funnel-shaped cones protruding into it and extending from it. the Phæno will surely do for this small industrial centre trying to reinvent itself as more than just a car town. Phæno is unlike anything else in this industrial city. as “a planet in her own inimitable orbit… it will be impossible for her to have a conventional career”. as the admixture in the concrete has a tendency to accelerate the hardening of the concrete. “Without advances in computer modeling this would have been virtually impossible a few years ago and the building would have been engineered in the traditional manner. “The benefits outweighed trying to use conventional mixes. A lot of time and energy was concentrated on achieving this result. at another it sinks to steer visitors to an open plaza directly under the belly of the building. with walls inclined up to 50º from vertical – the self-compacting admixture in the concrete enabled continuous concrete pours of up to seven metres high. “It produced a finish that would have otherwise been impossible to achieve through general construction techniques. Phæno is also remarkable as a showcase for the plastic possibilities of concrete and the application of new technologies to make the probably unlikely possible. the distorted three-sided concrete box looks wild and alien. the cones. significantly increasing its workability without any resultant loss in strength. in Germany’s car city – Wolfsburg is home to Volkswagen – the woman who Rem Koolhaas described in 1976. describes Hadid’s concept as that of a floor space melting down into the ten cones. to enable the complex forces within a single element to be resolved. Six of the cones support the box. Unstable by themselves. and sometimes it is supporting the slab. To satisfy the Hadid design team’s rigorous pursuit of authenticity and structural efficiency. a computer modeling process was developed. her first major mature building. Working in collaboration with engineers Adams Kara Taylor. “Instead. with the mile-long VW plant to one side of the Mittellan Kanal and residential sprawl on the other. Rising on the site of a former carpark just east of Wolfsburg’s railway station. the physical reality of Phæno is that it is one of the world’s largest examples of virtually hand-crafted. reducing the volume of the concrete to its absolute thinness. Although the cones are the main support for the building. fractured planes and daring protrusions – would have been difficult to achieve.” he says. Cast from 27. For the space beneath.issue 04 Phæno Science Centre The Phæno Science Centre in Wolfsburg Germany is remarkable for more than Zaha Hadid’s radical take on her notions of what a science museum should look like.” Scott says. And while it sits at the endpoint of a chain of important buildings by Alvar Aalto. in her final year at the AA London. The façade is sometimes being supported by the slab.

To tackle the problem. which were very noticeable after stripping. with the joint pattern and nail positions of the trapezoidal boards specified as accurately as the locations of the tie bar holes. Excerpt from Exposed Concrete – Technology and Design (Birkhauser 2005) . a detail was developed on site that allowed the formwork tie bar cones to also act as spacers. The spacer blocks posed a problem for the exposed concrete wall surface.issue 04 Phæno Science Centre Forming the cones The formwork for the cones consisted of planed boards. the spacer blocks for the starter bars for subsequent pours were exactly positioned and fixed in place with the aid of templates. the outside formwork panels – that is the exposed concrete formwork face – had to be erected first and supported on the underside with heavy duty props. The release agent. a formwork wax which proved to be particularly weatherresistant in several tests. whereby the weight of the reinforcement pressing into the solid wood boards caused defects – spacer block pimples – in the exposed concrete. The reinforcement was placed and tied together on this formwork before the inner formwork panels were erected. In view of the complicated shape of the reinforcement cage. As the cones open out upwards. The prefabricated formwork elements were artificially aged with a cement wash on site. was sprayed on to the formwork.



Paul Scott ≥ .

Where waffles can’t be seen. The complex opening profiles would have made this process more difficult and together with the angle of the inclined walls posed a risk to the as-struck finish. it was important architecturally to cast the concrete in one continuous pour between external floor plates to avoid visible pour lines on the exposed external surface. The exhibition floor cantilevers beyond the perimeter of the supporting cones to the edge of the upper floor plate and provides support to the perimeter walls and façade above. The process worked well on site with few problems. which helped absorb some of the air which would normally be trapped at the surface with a steel shutter. void formers are still used to reduce the self weight of the slab. Self compacting concrete is created by the use of chemical additives introduced into the mix at the batching plant. followed by fixing of the reinforcement layers and then the inner shell. The process to construct each cone was initiated by the erection of the outer shell. As some of the cones were unstable until the exhibition floor had been completed. As the concrete has a quicker setting period. Each form was completed between pour levels together with all service and architectural void formers prior to the pour. The pocket area bifurcates the main exhibition slab into a lower and upper area. which varies in height. Above ground level a further treatment was applied to the inside of the timber form by using a pattern of vertical wood strips which provided a further testament to the ability of self-compacting concrete to allow the use of fine finishes on complex forms. reducing shrinkage through reduced water content. The result is a structural interaction between the inclined surfaces of the walls and floors. maintaining a cohesive mix avoiding segregation. The project involves the use of ten tapered cones which rise from the foundation level to provide support to the raised exhibition floor. six of the supporting cones terminate whilst the remaining four continue through to support the roof level above. it is important to ensure that continuous supply of concrete is available to complete the pour. and increased strength. Paul Scott – Adams Kara Taylor ≥ . and the control of concrete compaction and finish.issue 04 Phæno Science Centre Zaha Hadid Project Statement The process of achieving a well designed building involves a considerable amount of time and effort in the details. This involved pours of seven metres high with walls inclined up to 50º from the vertical. In this instance. Each cone has a unique form and comprises of a plan geometry. The second problem is traditionally more difficult to solve and would have involved guiding vibrators up the inside of the shutters through a series of tubes in order to ensure adequate compaction of the concrete. This led to consideration of self compacting concrete as a means of dealing with these problems. From ground level the underside of the floor slab is exposed displaying a changing waffle density. The form of the waffles is skewed to reflect the overall geometry of the exhibition floor plate. the cones worked as a group. the waffle floor takes the lower level and is reflected in the exposed structure below and a thinner solid slab rises to form the upper part of the pocket. An example of this in the Phæno Science Centre project was in the development of the design and construction of the cone structures. Propping of the main exhibition floor was maintained until all the cones and floor plate had been completed and the structure was stable in its own right. Failure to do this will result in the formation of cold joints (a higher risk in self-compacting concrete due to the quicker setting times). The formwork shutters were removed after three to four days. with propping remaining in place until the upper floors had been cast and the structure was tied together in its final form. At the main exhibition level. given the complexity of the inclined walls and the extent of penetrations. The cones provide the only structural support to the building yet also house accommodation and services and are thus penetrated and cut by openings in relation to both these functions. The first problem can be solved in the design of the shutters both for the increased pressure and in the design and sealing of joints to avoid bleeding. Given that the cones were constructed of insitu concrete with the external face exposed. This led to two immediate problems: The pressure of wet concrete exerted on the formwork during the pour. increased durability. The waffles are laid out and concrete poured over and around them to create a series of ribs and a floor slab over but without the dead weight of a solid 900mm slab. It was originally developed in the Far East for early strength gain but was soon found to exhibit other properties which benefit the placing and casting of the concrete. The steel roof structure consists of a fanning truss arrangement based on a two-way spanning vierendeel which rises and falls to create its own landscape. It enhances the properties of the concrete by creating a mix with high workability. The main exhibition level takes support from the cones and provides level changes via its own folding form. providing an exhibition space clear of obstructions. All cones used a plywood finish. Not just the traditional notion of connection details but the material details of the project and how they are put to use. Support is taken from just four of the concrete cones and the perimeter steelwork.

Office for Visual Interaction.issue 04 Phæno Science Centre 10 Phæno Science Centre Wolfsburg Germany 27 Project Phæno Science Centre Location Wolfsburg. USA Photographer Helene Binet . Germany Architecture Zaha Hadid Architects & Mayer Bahrle Freie Architekten Project Architect Christos Passas (ZHA) Structural Engineers Adams Kara Taylor with Tokarz Frerichs Leipold Project Engineer Paul Scott (AKT) with Lothar Leipold (TFL) Services Consultant NEK & Buro Happold Concrete Contractor Heitkamp Lighting Contractor Fahlke & Dettmer. Germany.

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