The Ryugong to be completed, and they mean it this time

Years ago on the pages of ComingAnarchy, I profiled the Ryugong, the absurd and infamous pyramid-shaped hotel that stands incomplete and abandoned in the middle of Pyongyang, North Korea. It was planned to be completed by 1989, in which case it would have become the world’s tallest hotel (the unfinished structure was not surpassed in height by another hotel until the completion of construction on the Rose Tower in Dubai in 2009). However, construction was abandoned in 1992 and it stood at that time, with a rusting construction crane at the top as a permanent fixture, as a monument of the regime’s failure. In 2005, it was announced the hotel was to be completed with the assistance of South Korean tax dollars, but nothing was heard of those plans and I assumed that the renovation had been abandoned.

ryugong april 2010It turns out, however, that construction resumed in 2008, under supervision of an Egyptian company, the Orascom Group, which also has exclusive investments in North Korea’s mobile telephone infrastructure. It started to refurbish the hotel’s top floors and glass paneling the facades, and have recently completed the top lounge, and there are doubts about the structure’s resistance remain, especially after 16 years of exposure to weathering, which has left cracks throughout the structure. There are also reports about the quality of the building’s concrete and the alignment of its elevator shafts which may be crooked.

The exterior is supposed to be complete by the end of 2010, and the idea is to have the building finished by 2012, the year of the centennial of Kim Il Sung’s birthday. An artist’s rendition of the building, although slightly wider than the actual building, goes like this:

ryugong final model

The Ryugyong is currently the world’s 30th tallest building.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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11 Responses to The Ryugong to be completed, and they mean it this time

  1. Joe Jones says:

    Last night, NTV ran a program about what would happen if the human race suddenly disappeared from the Earth. I believe it was a direct translation of a show that aired in the US, with a bunch of moronic comedians thrown in to comment on it.

    Anyway, one segment discussed how long certain famous buildings would remain standing if there was nobody around to maintain them. They gave the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab in Dubai a life of 30 years, after which point the salt from the Gulf would eat away at its foundation enough to cause the whole thing to collapse. Big Ben and the Empire State Building were given about 100 years because of the erosion that would occur in the tunnel-riddled earth beneath them (Big Ben is apparently starting to tip over already, albeit very slowly, because of an unfavorably-placed Underground tube).

    If prominent buildings like that have such poor chances without regular maintenance, I can only imagine how Nork Tower would fare.

  2. Curzon says:

    I saw that program also on US TV several years back. I believe it began with, “all your pets will die.” Nork tower’s done OK for 15 years without any maintenance.

    On these pages a few weeks back I did a piece on abandoned Russian wooden buildings that looked almost untouched after being lost for nearly a century. I wonder if they would survive longer than skyscrapers.

  3. TS says:

    Is it poetically ironic, coincidental, or just funny that the Egyptians have to step in to help the North Koreans build an enormous, pyramidal monument that commemorates a god-like ruler? I mean, who else would you call?

  4. Master Cook says:

    I hate to give the North Korean regime any credit, but this is a handsome looking building, even if it will likely have to be closed for safety reasons in about fifteen years.

    With proper maintenance, it might even make a decent hotel, if anyone ever has a reason to visit Pyongyang.

  5. Michael says:

    That assumes it survives whatever liveliness accompanies the opening of NK to outsiders on a large scale. It probably wouldn’t be the safest place in Pyongyang to be during a war with SK and allies.

  6. Good to know NK will be ready for the throngs of people who visit them each and every year… it’s an interesting looking building, I’ll give it that.

  7. kurt9 says:

    Its a hideous looking building.

  8. Bob Harrison says:

    I’ve heard that it’s a hotel. Who visits North Korea?

  9. Bud says:

    I once read a theory that the fall of the Mayan empire was a result of the people getting tired of their kings forcing them to build ever larger and grander pyramids. So they just walked off into the jungle and went back to subsistence living. North Koreans are already pretty much subsistence living so I am not sure where they would go, but I have to wonder how they view the building of this pyramid.

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  11. ChiefBill says:

    I read that it was to have more hotel rooms then the entire number of foreign visitors to North Korea in any one year. Interesting planning.