Not much to say here...I was interested in these two buildings and I was looking forward to seeing which one would turn out better in person. UN Studio wins, hands-down. With Phaeno, the resolution of the underside in the concrete detailing of the Phaeno Science Center is crude, and the filleted transitions from the upper building mass to the lower supporting structural cones try to achieve continuity, but are marred by changes in concrete color, texture, and finish. It's clear that while the building tries to deliver on the promise of sleek, continuous form seen in the immaterial, silver 3D-printed model on display within the center, the concrete bears the imprint of various collaged formwork techniques and stamps. Not only that, the backside of the building is incredibly awkward, suddenly turning to a metal clad facade with an awkward ramp and connection to public circulation.
The ramping trefoil and dual circulation paths in the Mercedes-Benz museum kick ass. The concrete work is beautiful, and the experience of constantly looking across the central void while circulating about three smaller exhibition lobes in turn is incredible. The plans for the museum are incredible, and the experience--happily--lives up to the promise of those drawings. My faith in beautiful plans is restored.
On another note, this reinforces my belief in the power of developable surfaces for concrete and good panelization for sheet material. while UN Studio deploys hyperbolic paraboloids, produced through standard wood formworks, Zaha resorts to a conspicuous patchwork of formwork techniques to produce the various fillets needed for her geometries, and the building suffers. Finally, UN Studio also uses suitable materials--taut, backlit fabric on the roof of the atrium--when complex double curved surfaces are required. Beautiful.