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Phaeno Science Centre

  • Wolfsburg, Germany
  • 2000 – 2005
  • Neuland Wohnbaugesellschaft mbH on behalf of the City of Wolfsburg
  • Built
  • 12000m2
  • 9,000 m2 exhibition
  • 15,000 m2 underground parking

Described variously as ‘an architectural adventure playground’ and ‘the magic box’, Phaeno realizes our continuing vision of creating ‘complex, dynamic and fluid spaces’ – from the gently undulating artificial hills and valleys created below the main elevated structure, to the crater-like museum floor, naturally lit spaces and accessible funnels within.

The Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, was the very first science museum of its kind in Germany when it opened its doors to visitors in November 2005. On completion, the building represented the biggest single investment made by the city to date. It occupies an important site at the centre of Wolfsburg, completing a chain of significant cultural buildings by Aalto, Scharoun and Schweger and connecting via a bridge across the Mittelland Kanal to Volkswagen’s car manufacturing city, Autostadt.

Concepts and designs for the building were inspired by the idea of magic box – a object capable of awakening curiosity and the desire for discovery in all who open or enter it.

From the moment of arrival, pedestrians and vehicles are pulled through an artificial landscape and into the building, which is structured in a way that maximizes its transparency and porosity – with the main volume, housing the exhibition space, raised and covering an outdoor public plaza. Here, amongst gently undulating man-made hills and valleys commercial and cultural functions are housed within the supporting concrete cones.

The landscape inside this ‘architectural adventure playground’ is every bit as surprising. Visitors find themselves in a crater-like landscape – a ‘wonderland’ containing 250 Experimental Stations, providing diagonal views onto different exhibition levels and protruding masses which accommodate a variety of back-of-house functions.

Prior to its opening, Zaha Hadid described the Phaeno as: ‘the most ambitious and complete statement of our quest for complex, dynamic and fluid spaces’. She also explained, that realization of its avant-garde design required methods and materials unattainable through conventional construction techniques: ‘This project combines formal and geometric complexity with structural audacity and material authenticity. A lot of time and energy was concentrated on achieving this result.’


Zaha Hadid Architects


Zaha Hadid

Project Architect

Christos Passas

Assistant Project Architect

Sara Klomps

Project Team

Sara Klomps, Gernot Finselbach, David Salazar, Helmut Kinzler

Competition Team

Christos Passas, Janne Westermann, Chris Dopheide, Stanley Lau, Eddie Can, Yoash Oster, Jan Hubener, Caroline Voet


Patrik Schumacher, Silvia Forlati, Guenter Barczik, Lida Charsouli, Marcus Liermann, Kenneth Bostock, Enrico Kleinke, Constanze Stinnes, Liam Young, Chris Dopheide, Barbara Kuit, Niki Neerpasch, Markus Dochantschi

Local Architect

Mayer Baehrle, Lörrach, Germany


AKT Adams Kara Taylor, London, UK
Tokarz Freirichs Leipold, Hanover, Germany

MEP / Services

NEK, Braunschweig, Germany
Buro Happold, Berlin, London

Cost / QS

Hanscomb GmbH, Germany


Fahlke & Dettmer, Hanover, Germany
Office for Visual Interaction, New York, USA