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Rethinking Ryungyong
April 27, 2006 11:16 AM   Subscribe

The Ryungyong Hotel is a nearly 1,000 foot tall abandoned pyramid in the heart of Pyongyang that North Korea has officially tried to forget. [discussed previously here] The architecture magazine Domus had over 200 entries to a contest to repurpose the Ryungong, a similar project is also underway elsewhere on the web, though some architects think the effort is a bad idea. [For Domus, use:mefier/mefite]
posted by blahblahblah (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
It would be really funny if the U.S. lobbed a cruise missile at that thing, just for fun.
posted by matkline at 11:21 AM on April 27, 2006


My favorite part of it is the construction crane that's been sitting at the top, rusting, for the past 15 years.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:27 AM on April 27, 2006


This would be the coolest urban spelunking EVER! I had been in Central Terminal in Buffalo NY But this would put that to shame!!
posted by djseafood at 11:30 AM on April 27, 2006


Wildlife habitat! I think it's great. Leave it alone.
I'm sure it's being well used.
posted by hank at 11:35 AM on April 27, 2006


Yea, matkline. Dropping a bomb in the middle of a city of 2.7 million people would be real funny.
posted by octothorpe at 11:36 AM on April 27, 2006


Fascinating. Thanks, blahblahblah.
posted by shoepal at 11:37 AM on April 27, 2006


oooh...i want it!
posted by sexyrobot at 11:38 AM on April 27, 2006


That's awesome.
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on April 27, 2006


This kind of thing doesn't happen in liberal democracies.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:51 AM on April 27, 2006


This building fascinates me endlessly. Thanks for posting a follow up on it.

Chin up Detroit, if you ever feel embarrassed by the Tiger Stadium fiasco, there's always the Ryungyong hotel.
posted by psmealey at 11:54 AM on April 27, 2006


In a feat of engineering the hotel was constructed using only rebarred concrete, as opposed to a steel frame. One consequence is that the building's elevator shafts are significantly curved!
posted by FissionChips at 12:02 PM on April 27, 2006


Looks a little like a giant version of our local LDS church, so I suggest offering it to those nice boys on the bicycles.
posted by tula at 12:04 PM on April 27, 2006


Thanks, blahblahblah, this is exactly the sort of thing that keeps me coming back to mefi. I don't think I'm alone - there seems to be a substantial number of us that are drawn to weird failures and abandoned things, in the realm of architecture, transportation, and engineering.
posted by gdav at 12:07 PM on April 27, 2006


I think it's amazing that N. Korea built something so overtly evil-looking. Looks like Sauron's Summer home, or something.
posted by brundlefly at 12:09 PM on April 27, 2006


It's this sort of thing that makes me want to visit North Korea. Consider it the ultimate form of disaster voyeurism, to see a full-scale continuous reenactment of 1984 would just be fascinating beyond words. Does that make me a bad person?

Really, for better or worse, there are some things that the capitalist world simply cannot, or rather, will not do. Only North Korea could do something like this now that the Soviet Union collapsed.
posted by Saydur at 12:10 PM on April 27, 2006


As for the criticism of the contest: to read the contest as anything but mockery of the Pyongyang regime is to be completely tone-deaf. Certainly, referring to it as "propaganda of a regime with a horrific human rights record" reveals in the author a striking inability to respond to context and social cues. He's probably a sociopath.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:24 PM on April 27, 2006


This looks exactly like the sort of thing William Gibson should write into one of his stories. Just think of it...

"In a near-future, North Korea has slipped even farther into chaos. A last bastion of street-urchins, black-market pharma-distributors and voodoo mystics have claimed the Ryungyong tower for themselves..."
posted by Parannoyed at 12:32 PM on April 27, 2006


Pff, yeah right, I don't believe for a second that Pyongyang has 2.7 million people anymore.

On another note, this is an awesome post. The second North Korea opens up, the first thing I'm doing is sneaking into that thing.
posted by borkingchikapa at 12:37 PM on April 27, 2006


That is a cool building. It's a shame that North Korea is insulated by such a repressive regime. I would love to see what the people would be capable of given the freedom. That building suggests it could be quite impressive.
posted by dios at 12:39 PM on April 27, 2006


Here's a Google aerial view. Awesome post, thanks!
posted by donpedro at 12:42 PM on April 27, 2006


Kind of looks like a Galaga fighter from that POV, donpedro. Thanks.
posted by psmealey at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2006


I can't believe you're all missing it-- this thing is obviously the tip of a giant concrete spacecraft that's being assembled mostly underground. When the fucker launches the DPRK mission to Jupiter, I'll be laughing at the surprised looks on your faces...
posted by COBRA! at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2006


Looks more like a cyclopean tower with obscene angles.

Ia Ia Cthulhu fhtagn!

I was thinking more of repurposing the thing into a Motie zoo/museum...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:20 PM on April 27, 2006


Travelogues of DPRK.

Pyongyang and everything about it fascinates me more than it should.
posted by bardic at 1:25 PM on April 27, 2006


I blew that thing up in Mercenaries on the X-box.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:29 PM on April 27, 2006


Nice Keith Talent! I enjoyed working for the Russian Mafia myself.
posted by bardic at 1:33 PM on April 27, 2006


This is awesome. Like others have said, there is something fascinating about failure and totalitarian aesthetics. Thanks.
posted by dame at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2006


Man, I can't explain it, but I think it's a beautiful building.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 2:08 PM on April 27, 2006


Milton would have found the words, I think.

"...nor aught avail'd him now
To have built in Heav'n high Towrs; nor did he scape
By all his Engins, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in hell..."


Something in the totalitarian mindset demands these echoing hulks, all squandered upthrust and empty magnificence.
posted by Haruspex at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2006


bardic: Thanks for sharing your obsession; it's now mine too. Remarkable how all those tours are virtually identical. Shuttled from one highlight to the next by the handlers.
posted by donpedro at 2:38 PM on April 27, 2006


The Shape of Days is effing beautiful.

But that's not all, this is a great post.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2006


Pyongyang should hire that thing out as a filming location. I'm thinking everything from Dr. Who to Planet of the Ape movies could be made in and around that thing.
posted by wfrgms at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2006


In his essay collection Falling off the Map, Pico Iyer has a great essay about the DPRK--can't seem to find it online though. And with an American passport I'll never get to see Dear Leader's failed utopia--which saddens me a little bit although I know it shouldn't. It's a decades-long genocide, as well as the greatest joke against totalitarianism ever.
posted by bardic at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2006


If it was actually done, would it be any less creepy?
posted by smackfu at 4:12 PM on April 27, 2006


Thanks for the post. I've been obsessed with that diabolical looking monolith ever since I first heard about it.

"100 fucking floors? All empty!? So, when do we break in and throw a huge party and start some kinda freaky bridge-people commune?"
posted by loquacious at 4:59 PM on April 27, 2006


It's the Romulan home world...
posted by Kirklander at 5:12 PM on April 27, 2006


I don't think I'm alone - there seems to be a substantial number of us that are drawn to weird failures and abandoned things, in the realm of architecture, transportation, and engineering.

You're not alone. I wonder if anyone has made an effort to catalog these posts. That would so rock.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:14 PM on April 27, 2006


Pff, yeah right, I don't believe for a second that Pyongyang has 2.7 million people anymore.

Why not? There are 23 million people (although more than a million of them are in the army, admittedly) in the DPRK, and it's not a big place.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2006


Unbelievable.
The Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue, in Newspeak -- was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
posted by Ritchie at 8:37 PM on April 27, 2006


Donpedro -

Thanks for that link. You know, after looking at it for a while I noticed that for a city of 2.7 million - there sure didn't seem to be much in the way of traffic (which is understandable, considering the poverty of that country) or pedestrians or bicyclists. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of shipping on the rivers...

2.7 million people there? Unless they all went indoors at the same time, they're doing a good job of hiding.

I wonder what the real census numbers will be when the regime collapses? I'd be surprised if they're as much as half of what they say it is...
posted by JB71 at 9:01 PM on April 27, 2006


Hmph. On reading the earlier thread I've realised Vidiot beat me to it.
posted by Ritchie at 9:37 PM on April 27, 2006


2.7 million people there? Unless they all went indoors at the same time, they're doing a good job of hiding.

Well, at any one time half of them can be found cowering at the feet of some gigantic Kim statue.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:06 AM on April 28, 2006


Late to the party, but I gotta say--while the thing looks kind of weird from the ground, this view of it gives me the cold creeps. Not sure why, but damn. It doesn't look right.
posted by EarBucket at 7:49 PM on May 2, 2006


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