April 3, 2008

Neo-Brutalism of the Far East: North Korean Paranoia

This is the Neo-Brutalist Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. It’s a 1000 ft tall pyramid-shaped building with 3,000 rooms, and was supposed to have 7 revolving restaurants, except they never actually finished it. Wikipedia says:

"newspapers estimated the cost of construction was $750 million - 2% of North Korea’s GDP - and it is generally assumed construction came to a halt in 1992 due to lack of funding, acute electricity shortages, and the prevailing famine."

The building itself is complete, however it has no windows, fixtures or fittings - which makes it officially the world’s Tallest Unoccupied Building! In fact, it’s the tallest building by far in North Korea, the 18th tallest building in the entire world, and if it were ever to be completed, would be the world’s tallest hotel. Here’s a picture which really gives you a great impression of scale. It was intended to rival the capitalist skyscrapers of S Korea, but money ran out and work was abandoned in the 90s. It now sits empty, unfinished, and almost certainly structurally unsound. Rumor has it that official DPRK maps are not allowed to show its location, even though the structure towers over the city (and is pretty impressive on Google maps).

Ryugyong is one of the most important mockitectural buildings of the 20th century. It is a huge failure. It is a joke of a building, bad mockitecture, but offers us further proof of mockitecture's sociological and political leverage.

Ryugyong is a communist memorial. The hotel embodies the failure of Communism. Beauty in 1000 feet of concrete bliss. It towers over the city like a regime. However, it is a physical representation of a good idea gone wrong, much like communism itself.

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