Architecture as Experiential Marketing: The Surprisingly Bright Vantablack Olympic Pavilion in PyeongChang

Architecture as Experiential Marketing: The Surprisingly Bright Vantablack Olympic Pavilion in PyeongChang

Much has been said about the darkest building in the world, designed by Asif Khan, for Hyundai's Winter Olympic pavilion this year. What’s more surprising about this blackest-of-black pavilion is really how bright it is inside. The imposing facade of Vantablack VBx2 encloses a series of radiant, playful rooms and the entire project is part of a joint effort by Hyundai and Asif Khan to use architecture and design principles to bring delight to Olympic visitors in Pyeongchang this year.

Architecture as Experiential Marketing: The Surprisingly Bright Vantablack Olympic Pavilion in PyeongChang - More Images+ 34

Hyundai decided to sign on as a sponsor for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and commissioned the British architect, Asif Khan, to bring their brand vision to a physical space. The specific assignment—delivered by Hyundai's Creative Works—emphasized the fact that the built space had to convey a powerful experience without showing any of their products.

Initial Concept Sketch

In an interview with ArchDaily, Mr. Jang Young, a member of the design team at Hyundai Creative Works, explained his vision for the project:

I was an architect before. We made it clear we wanted to do something different, something revolutionary. We wanted to express the impact of this with Asif Khan… everything’s digital, but there’s power in the old, physical, tactile experience. You smell something, you touch something. We designed the pavilion with this in mind as something we could convey.

Hydrogen Layout Diagram
Hydrogen Section Diagram

Inside, the pavilion comprises 5 rooms representing water, solar energy, electrolysis, hydrogen fuel stacks, and the recreation of water. The work was divided such that Asif Khan would be in charge of the Vantablack VBx2 facade and the water room, and Hyundai would design a series of four rooms following the water one. Mr. Jang said the challenge was to turn the idea of a traditional showroom that shows products into one that conveys a “futuristic” experience.

Floor Plan

Hyundai Pavilion

Building area: 1,225 m2
Interior area: 449 m2
Height: 10m
Water room: 228m2
Hydrogen room: 89m2
Lounge: 33m2
Reception: 29m2
BOH container: 144m2 (5 3x6 Containers, 2 3x9 Containers)

Universe: Source Of Hydrogen

© Keshia Badalge

At the entrance of the Olympic Park sits the main Pyeongchang Olympic stadium, flags atop waving about with the brisk winds. Next to it is the Hyundai Pavilion, a dark and subtle companion to the main stadium's grandeur, but no less alluring. The main draw of the pavilion has been its use of Vantablack VBx2 on the exterior walls. The pitch-black facades and sparks of light were designed to embody the moment of the Big Bang and the creation of Hydrogen.

Construction: Hyundai Engineering, iart (LED)
Materials: Galvanised Sheet (metal)
Veneer: VantaBlack

Water: The New Seed

Upon entering the pavilion, the first thing visitors will encounter is a brightly-lit white room housing a large, interactive water display. The staff on site handed out cups to all the entering guests and invited them to play with the water channels.

© Light Up Your Energy

Ergonomic air switches push water into the channels when a visitor hovers his or her hand over the air holes.

© Kyungsub Shin

Mr. Jang told us that they deliberately chose the uniformed lighting in order to “best highlight the tiny droplet” and make it look like a circular bead.

At a speed of 0.5 to 0.8 meters per second, water droplets flow across the water channels coated with hydrophobic material. This makes the water droplets maintain its spherical shape, resembling a seed.
25,000 droplets of water freely glide across the channels.

© Kyungsub Shin

The droplets seem to activate the entire surface through their movement in a permanent but variable circuit until they reach the central “lake.”

© Kyungsub Shin

Hydrogen, then, is represented literally, as an impulse, as an engine that puts static things—like the architectural space—in motion.

Construction: iart
Ceiling height: 6m
Water installation surface area: 126m2
Water installation: Gray Korea (Artificial Marble)
Wall: White paint over plaster
Ceiling: Barisol
Floor: FRP grating (Specially reinforced plastic) used for an anti-slip surface

Hydrogen: Creation of Future Energy

The process of creating Hydrogen was conceptualized by Hyundai Creative Works and shown through four smaller, inter-connected rooms.

© José Tomás Franco

SOLAR: The first room we pass through as we exit the water room is a lovely orange and yellow-hued room called the "Solar room." This room is meant to represent the process of creating electricity through solar energy. Upon entering, we immediately noticed how warm the room was. We were later told that warm ambient heat was used to recreate the warmth of solar energy.

Materials: Tinted black mirrors

© Light Up Your Energy
© José Tomás Franco

ELECTROLYSIS: The second room is meant to represent the process where electricity produced from solar energy breaks covalent bonds between Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms to produce Hydrogen ions. Chrome hemispheres represent Hydrogen ions separated from water. Their reflective surface is no accident of design, either. Mr. Jang mentioned to us that his team had designed this room to be a selfie paradise.

Materials: Chrome veneer on acrylic

© José Tomás Franco

HYDROGEN FUEL STACK: If the first white room looked like The Void, this room certainly reminded us of The Matrix. The room is designed to resemble a hydrogen fuel stack, the place where hydrogen ions create electricity. 

In this "hairy" enclosure, thousands of little lights extend out by a length of about 15 centimeters. These lights can be swirled around, creating images and words. This section proved to be endless fun, especially for little children!

Materials: Fiber optic cables

© Light Up Your Energy

RECREATION OF WATER: The fourth and final exhibition is inspired by the recreation of water in a Hydrogen fuel engine. Water is dropped onto the surface of reinforced glass on the ceiling and the lighting effects create mock ripples on both sides of the wall.

Materials: Reinforced Glass

The pavilion opened earlier this month, in line with the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang this year. The building provides visitors to the Olympic park a playful and expressive space to interact with and even enter the future of a company, through the means of architecture.

Keshia Badalge and José Tomás Franco, reporting for ArchDaily from PyeongChang.

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Cite: Keshia Badalge. "Architecture as Experiential Marketing: The Surprisingly Bright Vantablack Olympic Pavilion in PyeongChang" 22 Feb 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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