Step inside Asif Khan’s dark pavilion for the Winter Olympics

Step inside Asif Khan’s dark pavilion for the Winter Olympics

Could this be the darkest building on earth? ‘On entering the building, it feels as though you are being absorbed into a cloud of blackness’, says its creator, British-based architect Asif Khan. Welcome to the 2018 Winter Olympics Hyundai Motor pavilion.

The structure, set within the PyeongChang Olympic Park, is without a doubt, a distinctive and dynamic piece of architecture. Conceived as a super-black composition, fully coated in light absorbing Vantablack VBx2, this pavilion is a playful take on a blackout space; its matt black material is able to absorb 99 per cent of the light that hits its surface, appearing almost as a black void, even in broad daylight. Its exterior is ‘illuminated by a field of stars that appear to float in mid-air’, adds the architect.

Khan's design for the pavilion was inspired by the automotive company’s technology. Photography: Luke Hayes

Part of Hyundai Motor’s global mobility initiative, the structure features 10-metre-high parabolic facades but measures a mere 35m x 35m in footprint; however its impact far surpasses its physical size. Inside, Khan created a ‘water room’ – an intricate installation emitting 25,000 singular water droplets per minute. Visitors can interact with them through sensors, altering their rhythm. The droplets collect into a lake that drains and reappears throughout the course of the display.

The contrast between inside and outside is powerful, creating an impressive effect. ‘The water installation visitors discover inside is brightly lit in white’, says Khan. ‘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.’

In tune with Hyundai’s mission to explore how ease of mobility can enhance everyday life, the pavilion’s design is inspired by the automotive company’s technology