Friday, 8 February 2008

The worst building in the world

ryugyong-hotel-lg Here's two serious contenders for the title of world's worst building. 

On the left (appropriately as you'll see) is the world's twenty-second tallest skyscraper, and Pyongyang's largest hotel -- although since the North Korean capital has few tourists and of those few barely any wish to spend a night in a vertical mausoleum, it remains steadfastly empty. 

Just as the North Korean economy if modelled on the economic thinking of Joseph Stalin, so too the un-hotel is designed somewhat in the manner of the Stalinist hotels built around Moscow in the forties and fifties.  But the one-hundred and five storey Ryugyong Hotel stands on a vastly different scale even to those brutes and with an aesthetic taste rarely if ever seen before.  Fortunately.

Amidst Pyongyang's skyline of uniformly tawdry ugliness, the Ryugyong Hotel's carcass stands tall.  "The hotel is such an eyesore," says Esquire magazine, "the Communist regime routinely covers it up, airbrushing it to make it look like it's open -- or Photoshopping or cropping it out of pictures completely." [Hat tip James Heaps-Nelson]

On a different scale, but no less repellent for that, is the new Akron Art Museum by competition winners Coop Himmelb(l)au*, who in their design statement say,

eyesore_200801aThe museum design introduces the firm's unique approach to historic structures, pioneered in Vienna, to the United States.... The museum of the future is a three-dimensional sign in the city, which transports the content of our visual world. There are no longer showrooms, which show digital and analogue visual information in the most diverse forms, but also the spaces which cater to urban experiences... Rather than going to the museum simply to look at art, visitors are welcomed to engage in artistic discourse, attend music and arts festivals, or maybe just hang out on their way elsewhere. Blah, blah, blah.

Says John the Recovering Architect (who's bestowed on James Howard Kunstler the accolade of Architectural Critic of the Year for his sterling work in identifying the world's eyesores every month ):

eyesore_200801b_2Another American city bends over to pick up the soap for a gang of Eurotrash art theory hustlers... To me it just looks like a mechanical alligator snarfing down a Beaux Arts post office... The upper jaw thing hanging over the original building is called "the roof cloud." I suppose it will allow visitors to "hang out" on the roof of the old building when it's raining out. Or something like that.

Feel free to click on all three images to feel the full grotesqueness of them all and, if you can handle a video of the un-hotel, click on that Esquire link.
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* Yes, that is the correct spelling.  A commenter at John's blog suggests "the "(l)" is to put emphasis on 'blaah' sound that one makes when they throw up, the same reaction one gets when they see their work."


  1. The Ryugyong is even more hideous close up, it is a concrete shell. Apparently the lift shafts are not plumb, the crane at the top is rusted and been there a good 15 years, although I havent seen it airbrushed out (yes i know) as I see pictures of it in comparatively recent North Korean literature.

  2. Robert Winefield8 Feb 2008, 11:38:00

    On the other hand, it would make a great evil lair... [raises pinkie finger to lips]

  3. A mate told me about his trip last june to North Korea to establish the western dining at a reunification hotel being built on the NK side of the DMZ. In short, the place is a hell hole with the usual winter famine expected to kill thousands if not tens of thousands, NK totally reliant on SK for fuel and much of their food, the only machinery running in his two weeks in the country was the local power plant for a couple of hours a day, a few stationary engines,irrigation pumps?, putt putting in the distance, ex soviet army transports and not an agricultural vehicle to be seen. As an ex soldier my mate tells me that the NK military were certainly not a professional army and more a collection of scared farm boys overseen by a political 'commissar' dressed in 1950s soviet surplus uniforms with ancient soviet weapons and no munitions . The new hotel is set on the coast with an amazing mountain backdrop, sent me photos, a golf course straight out of northern California and an armed escort for the players. The only locals he saw were farm workers kilometres away on the other side of enormous security fences. My mate Richards verdict, leave them to it and the regime will fall all on its own.


    FYI - Elliot


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