Feature - 2008 (SPG DesignBuildNetwork)


Hamburg Science Centre, Hamburg, Germany

Sitting at the end point of an axis through Hamburg from the inner, lake-like part of the river Alster to the river Elbe, a 23,000m2 new science centre by Rotterdam architecture star Rem Koolhaas will not only provide an attractive introduction to this bustling commercial centre but create a place for the next generation of German scientists to study and share knowledge. Hamburg's port area has occasionally been thought of as sleazy, despite being the second-largest port in Germany and the focal point of a city that remained relatively unaffected by the wartime tribulations further east. But the Science Centre, furthermore, will be part of the HafenCity -- which has been tipped to be Europe's largest inner city development when completed around 2015. The 155ha HafenCity, being constructed in a formerly neglected part of the harbour, will also host designs by other leading architects, including Renzo Piano and Herzog & de Meuron, and be home to 10,000 people. Land link to sea

According to OMA, the Hamburg Science Centre complex will comprise the science centre itself as well as offices, theatre, shops, restaurant, an aquarium and science theatre right at the entrance to Magdeburger harbour. Some 8500m2 of the complex will be underground. "Situated at the waterfront in close proximity to container and cruise ships, the building marks the connection between the harbour and the city," OMA said. Ten modular blocks will be connected to form a 14-storey 73m-high ring whose scale, shape and size OMA believes is reminiscent of the character of the original, historical urban waterfront development. OMA's design, rising up against the sea, is intended to symbolise Hamburg's economic strength combined with its interest and standing in science and technology. The vertical hoop-like structure at the entrance to the harbour with the presence of cruise and container ships nearby will add to the impression of scale. An exhibition space will be created on a modular principle similar to that used in the main Science Centre building, with a view to giving future curators maximum freedom and flexibility in designing their exhibitions and shows. OMA said the architects believe this kind of exhibition centre will act as an equally effective theatre for displays on all aspects of modern life -- rather than just the latest scientific research. Sustainable tourist attraction

The Science Centre design addresses not only environmental issues but also programmatic sustainability, according to OMA. "The function of the ten blocks that make up the building allow for large scale programmatic changes on a daily basis," the architects said. "The central structure accommodates the vertical circulation whereas the blocks on the west and east side are used as exhibition spaces." Exhibition curators may, for example, generate shortcuts, changes or create connections between displays by means of moveable partitions. Hamburg is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, and the HafenCity development is an expected additional draw. Visitors may start their tour of the Science Centre at a “base station” below the building's roof, cross down through the exhibition halls and descend via the modular blocks through various scientific displays. A large portion of the 8500m2 underground area is to be used by the aquarium. Three terraces on different levels will allow for panoramic views of Hamburg itself and Magdeburg Harbour west and east. "This three-way axis will link the various parts of the city and bring new life into the HafenCity. It enables direct interaction between visitors and passers-by functioning as an urban stage," said the architects. . .

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