Since construction began in 1987, the Ryugyong Hotel has dominated the skyline of North Korea‘s capital Pyongyang. Meaning “capital of willows” and nicknamed “The 105 Building” – a reference to its number of floors – the monolithic structure has featured widely on architecture and urban exploration websites. All but abandoned until recently, the vast, concrete hulk is finally being completed, although its very existence remains as shadowy as the Communist regime presiding over its construction.
The Ryugyong Hotel was originally set to open in 1989 in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students. But after several delays, construction came to a halt in 1992 following widespread economic disruptions and a shortage of raw materials in North Korea following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Topped out at 1,080 feet, but lacking windows and internal fittings, the concrete skeleton towered above Pyongyang for the next 16 years before construction resumed in 2008. In that period, its foreboding appearance became synonymous with North Korea’s capital and an enduring symbol of the twisted regime.
Information regarding the structure has always been notoriously hard to obtain. Strangest of all – but perhaps due to national embarrassment – the ruling elite denied its very existence for many years, going so far as to manipulate official photographs in order to remove the it from the city’s skyline.
Historically dubbed “The Worst Building in the World”, “Hotel of Doom” and “Phantom Hotel”, significant progress has been made over the past four years due to heavy investment by Orascom Group of Egypt. Set to encompass a hotel, apartments, business facilities and restaurants, the landmark structure could finally be completed in the near future.
But typical of the secretive regime, reliable information is hard to come by. What we can say for certain is that the gleaming glass facade is a vast improvement over the dull and foreboding concrete image that will continue to haunt the Ryugyong Hotel and its surroundings for years.