“There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”
Spinal Tap’s inane discussion of their pitch-black album cover is the best way we can get a handle on the brand-new pavilion unveiled at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
A new project commissioned by Hyundai, British architect Asif Khan’s 10-meter-high temporary building has been erected specifically for the Games, which officially begin on Friday, Feb. 9.
In what’s being called “the darkest building on Earth,” Khan’s structure has employed a sprayable version of the ominous Vantablack pigment. Created by UK researchers in 2014 and trademarked by British artist Anish Kapoor, Vantablack is touted as the darkest known artificial substance in the world — it absorbs up to 99.965 percent of light that hits its surface.
But the pavilion’s four sides are not just super, super black — they’re covered in what look like tiny stars, made visible as minuscule light rods.
“The level of interest really took us aback,” says Jensen. “We were inundated by architects and designers asking how they could use Vantablack, with ideas for everything from museum interiors to hiding unsightly cabling runs in the ceiling.”
Khan beat a path to the Surrey laboratory in 2013. The 38-year-old designer has built an international reputation for experimenting with innovative materials and technologies. He designed the world’s first “selfie building” for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, with a facade that morphed into the contours of visitors’ faces, followed by a pavilion inspired by graphene for the Astana Expo in Kazakhstan last year.
“Architecture is always 50 years behind technology,” he says. “Things developed for cars or aerospace eventually make their way into buildings, like modern cladding systems, which essentially come from car manufacturing.” Just as Mies van der Rohe used large panes of sheet glass in his seminal Barcelona Pavilion in the 1920s, or Erich Mendelsohn used arc welding in the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill in the 1930s, Khan hopes that his demonstration of this new nanomaterial might open up a new avenue of innovation for architects.
“It’s just the beginning of a brave new world of microstructures, whether it’s the technology used to filter sea water or materials developed for superconductivity. We’ve been looking at the possibilities of ‘structural colour’, too, which is the ability for materials to have colour properties within their physical structure, like butterfly wings.”
According to Deheen, the surface of the pavilion appears to change as visitors approach, with the light rods clustering when they sense movement nearby.
Inside the pavilion, it’s a completely different aesthetic. In a white room, visitors walk across a pathway as 25,000 droplets of water weave along minuscule channels into a large pool.
According to the Dezeen, the installation’s theme is meant to somewhat embody Hyundai’s latest hydrogen fuel cell Nexo vehicle, revealed at CES 2018.
Khan’s pavilion opens to the public on Feb. 9, coinciding with the Opening Ceremony of the Games. Expect to see it all over Instagram.