The PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea Debuts the Darkest Building on Earth
Commissioned by Hyundai Motor as part of a global mobility initiative, British architect Asif Khan coated his 32-foot-high temporary structure with an intensely dark black material called Vantablack VBx2.
What makes this sprayable version of the original Vantablack unique is how it is able to absorb 99 percent of any light that hits its surface, diminishing its three-dimensionality and creating an illusion of a startling black void in broad daylight.
"From a distance, the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space. As you approach it, this impression grows to fill your entire field of view. So on entering the building, it feels as though you are being absorbed into a cloud of blackness, " Khan explains.
The facades of the pavilion are punctuated by thousands of tiny white lights which—during the day—simulate the view into space from that particular point on earth.
Inside the structure, Khan has designed a vast "water room," which is a multi-sensory hydrophobic water installation that emits 25,000 singular water droplets every minute.
Visitors can interact with a series of haptic sensors, which then creates new rhythms as droplets continually collide, join, and split across the water landscape. The flow of individual droplets collect, grow, and build into a "lake" that drains and reappears within minutes.
"The water installation visitors discover inside is brightly lit in white. As your eyes adjust, you feel for a moment that the tiny water drops are at the scale of the stars. A water droplet is a size every visitor is familiar with," Khan expresses in a statement.
"In the project, I wanted to move from the scale of the cosmos to the scale of water droplets in a few steps. The droplets contain the same hydrogen from the beginning of the universe as the stars."
Hyundai Motors commissioned the pavilion as part of a series of projects that highlight the company's mission to enhance the lives of people through ease of mobility—the automobile maker is pioneering technology for the world’s first Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle.
Architect of Record: Asif Khan
Main Contractor: Hyundai Engineering
Interactive Engineer: iart
Facade coating: Surrey NanoSystems
Corian fabrication: Cutting Edge
Structural Engineer: AKTII
Environmental Engineer: Atelier Ten Environmental
Sound: Why Do Birds?
Interior contractor: GL
Local Architect: Unsangdong