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Fifteen years ago, it would have been difficult–and in some cases impossible–to engineer the buildings in these pages. Now ­powerful computer-assisted design and manufacturing techniques let ­architects build according to wholly new geometries. In this era, the ­rectilinear glass box has become a quaint relic of the predigital past.

Phaeno Science
Zaha Hadid Architects
Wolfsburg, Germany
2005

Most of the Phaeno Science Center’s weight rests on a series of scattered concrete cones that seamlessly taper down from the building’s underbelly. But the cones are not only structural supports: they also house a bookstore, a theater, and the museum’s entrance. Computers configured the exact cone placement necessary for the curvaceous design to work, and a new material called self-compacting concrete filled it out. It is the only concrete capable of sustaining a structure with such sweeping curves and tight angles.

Credit: Werner Huthmacher/Zaha Hadid

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