The PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea Debuts the Darkest Building on Earth

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
London-based architect Asif Khan reveals his latest project at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea. Described as the "darkest building on earth," this pavilion gives the illusion of outer space.

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. 

The structure has the appearance of a framed view into the depths of outer space.

The structure has the appearance of a framed view into the depths of outer space.

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"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 black façade represents the Universe—the origin of Hydrogen.  

The black façade represents the Universe—the origin of Hydrogen.  

Khan has been working with the manufacturers of Vantablack since 2013 and first suggested using the materials in his shortlisted proposal for the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015. 

Khan has been working with the manufacturers of Vantablack since 2013 and first suggested using the materials in his shortlisted proposal for the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015. 

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Khan worked with Hyundai to encapsulate its vision for the future of motoring through architecture, design and visitor experience.

Khan worked with Hyundai to encapsulate its vision for the future of motoring through architecture, design and visitor experience.

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. 

The above image captures what it is like to enter into the "water room."

The above image captures what it is like to enter into the "water room."

The interactive water droplets inside the building are inspired by individual Hydrogen molecules and the technology behind Hyundai’s new Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle. 

The interactive water droplets inside the building are inspired by individual Hydrogen molecules and the technology behind Hyundai’s new Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle. 

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. 

Visitors interact with sensors causing 25,000 water droplets to travel along the channels per minute.

Visitors interact with sensors causing 25,000 water droplets to travel along the channels per minute.

Once the droplets have collected, they then collide and split before being pooled into a lake.

Once the droplets have collected, they then collide and split before being pooled into a lake.

"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." 

The building also references the traditional temple architecture of South Korea. 

The building also references the traditional temple architecture of South Korea. 

The illuminated lights make you feel as if you are staring into space.

The illuminated lights make you feel as if you are staring into space.

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.

Above is another view of Khan's stunning structure. 

Above is another view of Khan's stunning structure. 

Project Credits:

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