asif khan’s pavilion for the 2018 winter olympics is said to be ‘the darkest building on earth.’ coated in layers of vantablack VBx2, the building absorbs more than 99% of the light that hits it, creating a beautifully deceiving illusion.
all images © luke hayes
the exterior appears flat, but it isn’t. it’s quite curved. rods of different lengths — holding small lights — jut out of the parabolic pavilion, toward the viewer, like distant stars. at this scale, each inch could represent a lightyear. the vantablack pigment. asif khan’s execution. together, they’ve made a simple, near-perfect ethereum of stars for olympic attendees to wonder at, in south korea. it may be the closest thing to space we have to visually experience on earth.
and when it opens — february 9 — viewers will experience a full spectrum of light and dark. after entering a dark portal, viewers will find themselves blinded by a bright space. eyes adjusting, viewers inside a juxtaposingly white room will watch and softly listen to a hydrophobic installation, also designed by khan, using water and corian. widening viewers’ awareness to the spectrum of light may have been khan’s intention. it is a pleasant side effect nonetheless.
visitors will trigger sensors and sensors will trigger water droplets — 25,000 per minute — to fly and meander along tiny, satisfyingly-minimal aqueducts. the drops will entangle with one another, split apart, and continue on their paths into a larger body of collective water: thus becoming a white, quantum-scale-version of the building’s dark, celestial exterior. once the eyes are fully adjusted to the white room, once you’ve felt the grand hugeness of the universe, the illusive darkness, the smallness and the lightness of everything, you can walk back outside and stare once more at the darkest building on earth.
name: hyundai pavilion
client: hyundai motor company
design: 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: USD
agency: innocean worldwide
asif khan (11 articles)
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