Olympics features the ‘Darkest Building on Earth’

Architect Asif Khan has unveiled a pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, described as the “darkest building on earth.”



Located inside Olympic Park, the temporary structure measures 10-meter-high (32.8 feet). Asif Khan spray-painted the structure with Vantablack VBx2, a substance that absorbs over 99 percent of light.  Vantablack VBx2 is a sprayable version of Vantablack pigment, which British artist Anish Kapoor controversially acquired exclusive rights for in 2016. 

Because of the super-black spray-paint coating the pavilion, it is nearly impossible for the human eye to make out the contours of the building.  Rods tipped with tiny white lights protrude from the “super-black” parabolic curves of all four sides of the pavilion, giving the impression of stars suspended against the darkness of space.

In a statement, Khan described his vision, “From a distance, the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space. 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 is a new dimension. A large white room clad in Corian creates an immersive water installation, in which 25,000 water droplets are released every minute and travel along carved channels until reaching a central pool.

The 35-meter by 35-meter building was commissioned by Hyundai Motor as part of its global art initiative, with the pavilion’s space theme aligning with the car manufacturer’s latest technology: a Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle.

The “stars” on the outside represent the chemical element on a cosmic level – gaseous balls shining due to the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium at their core.

Inside the pavilion, the liquid embodies hydrogen at a more human scale, as two atoms of a hydrogen bond with one oxygen atom to form water.

Project credits:

Client: Hyundai Motor Company
Design: Asif Khan
Main contractor: Hyundai Engineering
Interactive engineer: iart
Facade coating: Surrey NanoSystems
Structural engineer: AKTII
Environmental engineer: Atelier Ten
Environmental sound: Why Do Birds?
Interior contractor: GL
Local architect: USD
Agency: Innocean Worldwide

See also: 
Asif Khan reveals super-dark Vantablack pavilion for Winter Olympics 2018 via dezeen

Looking at this ultra-black Winter Olympics pavilion is like staring into space via Curbed

The Darkest Color in the World Is Now Owned Exclusively by Artist Anish Kapoor via Curbed


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A fresh look at $2B plan to update Smithsonian

Architecture firm BIG – presented a revised proposal for the Smithsonian Campus Master Plan in Washington, DC. The vision was first unveiled in 2014 and has since been redeveloped following years of public comment and close collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

The new proposal reflects the team’s commitment to preserving the intimate character of the treasured Haupt Garden, while addressing existing and future needs, at one of the most historically significant areas and cultural institutions in the nation’s capital.

BIG’s $2 billion proposal – which involves lifting up two corners of the Enid A Haupt Garden and create entrances to an underground concourse connecting the campus’ museums – was revised following years of public consultation.

Members of the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), local decision makers, residents and garden enthusiasts listened intently when Bjarke Ingels and representatives of the Smithsonian Institution gave a detailed account of the revised plans for the $2 billion restoration and revitalization of the South Mall Campus.

“Since our last proposal, we’ve been listening very closely to the public,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.  “We wanted the general feeling and fondness for the Haupt Garden to remain the same while also increasing its enjoyment and use, offering educational elements and after hour programs.” 

The firm’s masterplan involves upgrading facilities, access and links across the Smithsonian’s South Mall campus, which includes a collection of museums that run along the southern side of the National Mall and front Independence Avenue.

These include the historic Smithsonian Castle, the Arthur M Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art – all arranged around the Haupt Garden and joined by a concourse buried beneath.

BIG’s plans include an expanded visitor centre and new education space, which will be accessible from the Mall via descending walkways, and the reconfiguration of the entrance pavilions to the African Art Museum and the Sackler Gallery.

Ingels continues about the garden, “we also want to make more accessible some of the hidden treasures underneath the Haupt Garden – the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery – which are so well hidden that they’re under-enjoyed compared to the value they represent. If we can make them more accessible, more people might be tempted to explore.”

New visuals demonstrate the team’s intention to preserve the peaceful nature of the Haupt Garden and its diverse landscape, while also serving the wider needs of DC and the growing Southwest Ecodistrict community.

The revised proposal received a number of reactions following the presentation, and while some of the previous concerns have been addressed, the general sentiment remains that there is more work to be done. Pascal D. Pittman, AIA, Director of Quality Assurance at the engineering firm Setty & Associates later commented: “I got the impression that BIG finds itself between conflicting interests which remain to be reconciled. I thought the presentation, based on the parameters that BIG described, provided for a very elegant solution.”

Another reaction came from Robert Young, AIA, Associate Principal at Grimshaw and long-time DC resident and architect, who submitted a public comment: “[the Smithsonian’s founding donor] James Smithson’s call for ‘an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men’ is noble and grand, yet, like our beloved Mall, has not been able to fulfill its goals as it – and the population it serves – continually grows and changes.

As the great facilities of the Smithsonian have fallen into disrepair or reach the end of their expected lives, and the great possibilities of the ‘Mall to Museum’ connection have frayed, it is the visionary response by the Smithsonian leadership and BIG that will allow a continued dialogue between our fundamental rights as citizens and our aspirations as humans. The work of BIG is bold, expressive, and often radically new: yet those characteristics are supported by thoughtful research, sympathetic engagement and conceptual synthesis.”

BIG’s new Master Plan seeks to improve existing facilities by proposing an expanded Visitor Center and new Education Space, accessible via descending entryways oriented towards the Mall; create clear connections, access points and visibility between the museums and gardens by reconfiguring the entrance pavilions to the African Art Museum and the Sackler Gallery; and to replace aging building mechanical systems that have reached the end of their lifespan, including structural reinforcements of the Castle to withstand potential seismic activity.

The first stage of the plan, the renovation of the Castle, is expected to begin in 2021.

About Smithsonian Institution
Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has been committed to inspiring generations through knowledge and discovery. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,500 Smithsonian employees and 6,300 volunteers. There were 30 million visits to the Smithsonian in 2013. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at nearly 155 million, including more than 145 million specimens and artifacts at the National Museum of Natural History.

About BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
BIG is a Copenhagen, New York and London based group of architects, designers, urbanists, landscape professionals, interior and product designers, researchers and inventors. The office is currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. BIG’s architecture emerges out of a careful analysis of how contemporary life constantly evolves and changes. A pragmatic utopian architecture that steers clear of the petrifying pragmatism of boring boxes and the naïve utopian ideas of digital formalism. Like a form of programmatic alchemy, we create architecture by mixing conventional ingredients such as living, leisure, working, parking and shopping. By hitting the fertile overlap between pragmatic and utopia, we once again find the freedom to change the surface of our planet, to better fit contemporary life forms.

Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan Facts 

SIZE: 123,000 m2
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
CLIENT: Smithsonian Institution
COLLABORATORS: SurfaceDesign, Robert Silman Associates, GHT Limited, EHT Traceries, Stantec, Atelier Ten, VJ Associates, Wiles Mensch, GHD, FDS Design Studio, Kleinfelder

Partners in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen, Kai-Uwe Bergmann
Project Manager: Aran Coakley, Ziad Shehab
Project Leaders: Alvaro Velosa, Daniel Kidd, Sean Franklin
Team: Aaron Hales, Alana Goldweit, Alexandre Hamlyn, Andriani Atmadja, Annette Miller, Benjamin DiNapoli, Benjamin Novacinski, Cadence Bayley, Choonghyo Lee, Chris Falla, Daisy Zhong, Daniele Pronesti, Doug Stechschulte, Emily Chen, Gabriel Hernandez Solano, Janice Rim, Jennifer Shen, Jeremy Alain Siegel, Jihoon Hyun, Julian Andres Ocampo Salazar, Kalina Pilat, Katarzyna Starczewska, Lina Bondarenko, Mahsa Malek, Manon Otto, Martin Voelkle, Ola Hariri, Otilia Pupezeanu, Saecheol Oh, Sara Ibrahim, Stephen Kwok, Stephen Steckel, Suemin Jeon, Tammy Teng, Taylor Fulton, Tianqi Zhang, Vincent Fulia, Wells Barber, Wesley Chiang, Zhifei Xu


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Streetside Artscape explores winter darkness

This winter, a new art installation in the storefront windows of downtown Tacoma’s famed Woolworth building is lighting up the corner of 11th Street and Broadway.

Their piece, which debuted at First Night Tacoma-Pierce County on New Year’s Eve, is the latest installment of Spaceworks Tacoma’s Artscapes initiative. It’s called 2139:47 — signifying the duration of winter in hours and minutes.

Two Woolworth Building window bays house a suspended, stacked array of sheer fabric-wrapped wood frames and a colored nylon fabric-wrapped acrylic “lens” box. Each window bay is lit by a 35,000 lumen LED HXB High Bay light fixture provided by Cree lighting.

The window art is the brainchild of Scott Blakemore and Jeff McCord, colleagues at Seattle’s ZGF Architects by day and artists in their spare time. After meeting in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture, the two formed a Seattle-based partnership called Split Shot Collaborative.

“Winter weighs heavy on the collective consciousness of the Pacific Northwest,” their artist statement reads. “Its approach brings a leaden darkness — sudden, insistent, brutish. 2139:47 — or the duration of Winter in hours:minutes — represents an embrace of the artificial, an anemic attempt to replace what is lost for a season, via a communion of the mundane: frames, fabric, industrial lighting.”

Additional support for the installation was provided by ZGF Architects and Lighting Design Lab.

The exhibit runs through March 15, 2018.

An initiative of Spaceworks, Artscapes installations can be found in storefront windows, outdoor spaces and indoor video galleries in the city of Tacoma.

Spaceworks Tacoma, founded in 2010, is a joint initiative of the city of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber designed to activate empty storefront and vacant spaces. SpaceWorks makes Tacoma culturally vibrant and economically strong through training and support for artists and creative entrepreneurs.

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100 more bikes for 100 more children

Instead of holding a traditional holiday party, the team at CollinsWoerman created their own Santa’s Workshop. Over 60 employees spent the day assembling 100 bicycles of all sizes for 100 kids. 

The event benefited the Forgotten Children’s Fund, an organization that works to give deserving children and their families a truly Merry Christmas. 

“This time of year is especially busy with the demands of work, family, and everything associated with the holidays, but it’s also a time when the spotlight is brightest on the unmet needs within our community,” said Mark Woerman, principal at CollinsWoerman.

As part of the 100 Bikes for 100 Kids Program, the bicycles were delivered to the Forgotten Children’s Fund’s “North Pole” where volunteers distributed them to families in need on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

This year’s bicycle giveaway marks the fifth year of CollinsWoerman’s partnership with The Forgotten Children’s Fund.

“As a firm, we’re fortunate to be able to put a smile on the faces of 100 kids who would otherwise be left without this holiday season, and to create a memory that may inspire them to do the same for someone else at another time in their lives,” emphasized Woerman.

What a fun way to give back and what a great party! Nice work CollinsWoerman

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Shop smart, spend safe this season

Here are some tips for cyber shopping, online returns, and other financial advice for the year’s end.

Some cyber shopping tips for a safe holiday season
These days I find I’m as apt to reach for my phone as I am for my credit card when I buy something, whether I’m using my “mobile wallet” or a person-to-person (P2P) payment.

And of course, you probably spend as much time shopping online as I do. That’s why as we dive into the shopping season, it’s a smart time to double-click on some ways to stay safe when we’re making digital transactions.

Here are some best practices that will help keep your money safe and your holiday cheer intact. (read more)

Suspicious charge? Act fast if you think any accounts may be at risk
Maybe you saw a suspicious charge on your bank statement. Or your debit card is missing from your wallet. If you believe your account is at risk, you need to act fast. Your money could be in jeopardy.

According to a 2015 American Bankers Association survey, banks lost nearly $2 billion to deposit account fraud the year before. The recent Equifax data breach highlights how consumer information is vulnerable and how that could put your financial accounts in danger.

When faced with a compromised account, consumers can protect themselves by acting quickly in the short term and diligently in the long term. (read more)

What’s the best way to track my spending?
Q: It seems like all my income disappears by the end of the month, and I want to know where it’s going. What’s the best way to keep track of my spending?

A: You’ve already come to an important realization: Understanding your expenses will give you greater control over them.

Many people have a tough time getting to that point. Two-thirds of U.S. adults don’t keep a detailed budget that tracks income and expenses, a 2013 Gallup survey found. That’s often because they’re afraid of what they’ll find, says Maggie Baker, a psychologist in the Philadelphia area and author of “Crazy About Money.” But a deep dive into your cash flow can be the first step toward finally feeling like you’re on course financially.

“There’s a certain empowerment that comes with facing the truth,” Baker says.

There’s no best way to track where your money goes; what’s most important is following through. Understand your preferences, explore the available tracking tools and choose the best fit. Once you have results, start making small changes. Here’s how to begin. (read more)

Why our brains make stupid money choices

  • Our money illusions can work against us, treating some forms of money as less real than others, and that can really cost you.  

Money is money, whether it’s cash in our hands, plastic cards at checkout counters or encrypted bits of data coursing between computers on the internet.

But our brains don’t view all money as equal, thanks to what behavioral economists call “cognitive biases”: 

  • We spend cash more carefully than plastic.
  • We regard tax refunds as a windfall rather than a return of what we earned.
  • We’d rather have money now than more money later. (read more)

A guide to making holiday returns easier

  •  Many retailers allow people to exchange or return goods, but the policies often must be followed to a T.

The holidays are a time for celebration and gifts, but not all presents hit the mark and returning them doesn’t feel very festive. If you find yourself unhappy with a gift, you wouldn’t be the only one.  

Nearly a quarter of the people responding to a 2015 holiday survey by shopping app Retale said they were likely to return or exchange at least one of the presents they received.

A recent holiday shopping report by personal finance website NerdWallet found that clothing was the most commonly returned gift last year, at 14 percent.  (read more) 

How to refresh your finances for the new year
Q: I want to make 2018 the year I fix up my finances for real. How can I give my money a fresh start?

A: I applaud your commitment to financial fitness. This is one of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself in 2018 and beyond.

While your resolve is strongest, set aside cash for emergencies in a traditional savings account. Next, if you’re not saving for retirement, start now. 

Getting your emergency and retirement accounts started is huge, and those might be the only things you focus on this year. But once they’re set, here are ways to bring your money makeover to the next level.  (read more)

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