The Olympic pavilion is entirely coated with Vantablack VBx2 and illuminated by thousands of tiny white light rods. These rods extend from the structure’s parabolic super-black facade and create the illusion of a field of stars suspended in space. Looking at the building will be the closest experience to looking into space from a point on Earth.
Because Vantablack VBx2 absorbs 99% of light, it is hard for the human eye to make out any depth because no light is reflected back to the viewer. In the absence of color, light and depth, a viewer’s perception of space is transformed from every viewing angle. A 3D building can be rendered completely flat.
“From a distance the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space,” Asif Khan said in a 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.”
Inside the pavilion, visitors will encounter a vast ‘water room’ – a multi-sensory hydrophobic water installation that emits 25,000 singular water droplets every minute. Visitors can interact with the haptic sensors and create rhythms in these droplets as they collide, join and split across the water. These objects accumulate and amass into a ‘lake’ which drains and reappears in the space, shifting in and out of the viewer’s visual spectrum.
According to Khan, “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.”
VIsitors will encounter the building when entering the Olympic Park in South Korea. The pavilion is commissioned by Hyundai Motor as part of a series of projects on enhancing people’s lives by making mobility easier. Another project in this series is the world’s first Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle. The Olympic building is derived from Hyundai’s vision of a sustainable future: the black facade represents the Universe and the interactive water droplets were inspired by individual Hydrogen molecules and the technology behind Hyundai’s new Hydrogen vehicle.
Asif Khan has been working with the manufacturers behind Vantablack since 2013 and proposed to use the material for the UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015. The London-based architect’s other notable projects include Coca Cola’s pavilion at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the MegaFaces pavilion at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.