The darkest building on earth might just offer the most enlightening experience
Pyeongchang, South Korea – Asif Khan’s Pavilion at this year’s Winter Olympics is coined as the darkest building on earth, yet there is something strangely enlightening about it. Commissioned by Hyundai as part of a global mobility initiative, the pavilion embodies the two extremes of the scale of our cosmos going from the vastness of the universe to the singular atom.
The London-based practice coated the 35 by 35-m structure in Vantablack VBx2, a matte black material which absorbs 99% of the light that hits its surface, immersing visitors into a void where all sense of direction, dimension and time is momentarily lost. Thousands of white lights that seem to float on the surface punctuate its 10-meter-high parabolic facades, simulating a view into outer space.
Upon entering, a multisensory hydrophobic water installation housed in a brightly lit, white environment contrasts the super-black exterior. Visitors interact with the installation through a series of haptic sensors to influence the rhythm of the 25,000 water drops released per minute.
Colliding, joining and splitting across the engraved landscape, the individual drops concentrate in a central ‘lake’ which is drained and filled periodically. Celebrating hydrogen, the element found both in the water drops and in the stars, the pavilion hints to the motor company’s vision of a hydrogen-powered society.
The contrasting effect of exterior and interior, black and white, cosmos and atom offers an experience which triggers visitors’ awareness of their own existence and place in the universe.