In Pyeongchang, architect Asif Khan has installed a super-black pavilion for the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Khan describes it as the “darkest building on earth” by virtue of the fact it has been sprayed with Vantablack VBx2, a substance that absorbs over 99% of light.
Vantablack VBx2 is so black that from afar, the pavilion looks like an empty void – “a window cut into space,” Khan told Dezeen.
Up close, it’s possible to discern tiny white lights protruding like stars, and by all accounts the sensation of gazing into infinity is almost too much for a mere human mind to make sense of. Inside, a dark corridor leads to a futuristic white space where 25,000 tiny water droplets hurtle around like giant atoms.
The installation represents an unusual cross-pollination of architecture and science. Khan worked directly with scientists at NanoSystems to develop Vantablack VBx2 – a more versatile pigment than its predecessor, Vantablack.
He also worked closely with Hyundai Motor Company, which commissioned the pavilion as part of its global art initiative. Khan needed to highlight Hyundai’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, which is why the stars outside represent the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium; while inside, droplets represent atoms of hydrogen bonding with oxygen to form water.
The architect is no stranger to brand collaborations, working with MINI to install forest-like plant boxes across east London, and with Coca Cola during the 2012 London Olympics Khan to design a giant beat box.
Not everyone will love Khan’s giant black void – the pavilion’s pitch-black footprint on Pyeongchang’s horizon is hardly subtle. But as a temporary installation designed specifically for the Winter Olympics, Hyundai Pavilion is a multi-sensory experience that strikingly draws attention to Hyundai’s technological prowess using an innovation as humble as paint.