As excitement around the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea builds for the February 9th opening ceremony, London-based architecture firm Asif Khan Ltd. has revealed a pitch-black pavilion sponsored by Hyundai Motor. Coated in Vantablack VBx2, the world’s blackest black paint, the exterior of the parabolic pavilion is lit with thousands of point lights and resembles a field of floating stars. “From a distance the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space,” said Asif Khan in a press release. “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.” Vantablack’s impenetrable darkness is based in its structure, as the paint is made of tangled carbon nanotubes that trap light on a microscopic level. At 32 feet tall and 114 feet long on all four sides, the monolithic Hyundai Pavilion is the largest continuous nanostructure in history. It also represents the first architectural application of Vantablack. While the original iteration of Vantablack paint was so fragile that it could only be installed under laboratory conditions, VBx2 suspends the coating in a spray solution and can be directly applied. The resultant structure, though the walls are curved inwards, has been seemingly rendered as a flat void and stripped of its volume; inside the effect couldn’t be more different. Playing on the theme of hydrogen, in reference to Hyundai’s foray into fuel cell-powered vehicles, the interior of the pavilion is a stark white and anchored by an interactive water installation. As visitors walk around the interior, water drops are elongated as they flow through channels carved into the floor and pool at a central drain. “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,” said Khan. “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.” The usage of Vantablack has been a contentious topic in the short five years it’s been around. While Anish Kapoor made headlines after claiming the exclusive rights to the pigment’s use, Asif Khan has been working closely with the researchers behind Vantablack since 2013 and has previously proposed using it for a variety of projects. The Hyundai Pavilion will open to the public alongside the Olympics on February 9, in Pyeongchang.
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Competition or PR stunt? That's up to you to decide, but there is no debate that the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition has provoked some interesting conversations around issues of the cultural institution in the globalized 21st century. On June 23, the Guggenheim will announce a winner, from the 1,715 official entries, all of which you can see here. However, the most interesting parts of the competition will probably be auxiliary to the building chosen on next Tuesday. In October 2014, the list was trimmed to a more manageable (and anonymous) six finalists. One of the spin-offs of the Helsinki competition is Next Helsinki, an alternative call-for-proposals that solicited new ideas about how the museum can bring its centrally located, waterfront site to life through the continuation of emergent urban trends. Rather than simply create another icon, Michael Sorkin explained on the website, organizers initiated the competition because of an “outrage at the march of the homogenizing multi-national brand culture emblematized by the imperial Guggenheim franchise—the cultural equivalent of Starbucks—was what launched us.” However, they also did it because they care about the city of Helsinki. “The feeling of love came from our mutual affection for Helsinki, from a sense that it is a singular place, unique in setting, form, and culture. Understanding the impetus to acquire a Guggenheim as a pursuit of the vaunted Bilbao effect, the idea that some gaudy global repository would put a tired place on the map, we wondered why a city so indelibly fixed in the urban firmament, so superb, would ant to surrender such a fabulous site to some starchitect supermarket,” Sorkin continued. For more on the Next Helsinki project, and to see the shortlisted projects, see their website.