Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The world's craziest hotel resumes construction

When crazed dictators say they're going to finish something, chances are they will. No, I'm not talking about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, it's our old friend Kim Jong-Il's 105-story monstrosity in Pyongyang, North Korea, the Ryugyong Hotel. For those of you unfamiliar with this bizarre piece of architecture, it began construction more than 20 years ago, and has remained as a mostly topped-off concrete shell since about 1992, complete with an unmoving construction crane poised at its pinnacle. Derided in architectural circles, the 1,083-ft structure's unfinished state has been attributed to either North Korea running out of money or to structural problems that were discovered too late in the construction process. Either way, this massive pyramid has loomed over the city's residents ever since.

Now, strangely, as the rest of the world has paused in the midst of this worldwide economic slowdown, North Korea is moving forward with construction on this hotel, something that observers think has been going on for perhaps 6-8 months. Photos on architectural/construction forums and other sites have been showing glass creeping up the side of the building.

In all honestly, I'm not sure of the purpose or necessity of this project. North Korea's restrictive travel policies—not to mention its lack of a relationship with most of the rest of the world—don't exactly encourage many leisure or business travelers. I'm not really one to argue for killing any sort of hotel project, but here's one where I think that money would certainly better be spent elsewhere.

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