Darkest Building on Earth Opens at Olympics


London-based architect Asif Khan has unveiled his latest creation: the darkest building on Earth. The “Hyundai Pavilion,” designed for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018 in South Korea, is coated entirely in Vantablack VBx2, a derivative of Vantablack, the world’s darkest pigment.

The matte black facades are punctuated by thousands of white lights to simulate a view into space, and that’s not the only sensory element.

Inside the structure, Khan installed “a vast ‘water room’—a multi-sensory hydrophobic water installation, which emits 25,000 singular water droplets every minute.”

“From a distance, the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space,” said Khan in an emailed statement. “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.

“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. 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.”

Vantablack History

Khan has been working the manufacturers of Vantablack since 2013. The material was originally designed and intended for satellite-borne blackbody calibration systems—and has the ability to seemingly render any 3-D object 2-D, absorbing 99.96 percent of all light that hits it.

The matte black facades are punctuated by thousands of white lights to simulate a view into space.

According to Surrey NanoSystems, the original developer of Vantablack, the composition of Vantablack makes the substance ideal for light-suppression and light-management problems.

The manmade material is akin to a forest of millions of very small tubes made of carbon—also known as carbon nanotubes. Each nanotube is around 20 nanometers in diameter, about 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of the average human hair. Each nanotube ranges from 14 to 50 microns long; 1 centimeter squared would contain 1,000 million nanotubes.

The material can also be spray-applied to complex surfaces, and is also intended for use in high-performance infrared cameras and satellite-borne calibration sources.

Khan’s structure opens in tandem with today’s 2018 Opening Ceremony.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building Envelope; Color; Color + Design; Design; Design build

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