For many, the fabric of North Korea remains a fascinating mystery. But now a new book by Oliver Wainwright sheds light on the Hermit Kingdom, delving into the landscapes, buildings and interiors hidden inside.
The Guardian’s architecture critic took a trip to North Korea in 2015. Armed with his camera and notepad, and keeping his eyes wide open, he set about documenting these little-seen spaces for Inside North Korea – while under the watchful eye of official guides.
‘The North Korean interior is a fascinating stage set, a precisely choreographed world where an idealised image of power and order is played out,’ he writes in the book’s introduction.
‘The capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea isn’t the monotonous grey world that you might expect it to be, and this book is an attempt to offer a glimpse behind the closed doors.’
From towering monuments to fantastical leisure centres, here are seven scenes from Pyongyang that seem plucked from the big screen:
Pyongyang Ice Rink
Constructed in 1982, this building takes on a conical, almost interplanetary form that looks like it has been taken straight off the set of a sci-fi film.
Rungrado May Day Stadium
This gigantic stadium is said to be the largest in the world, with a capacity of 114,000.
East Pyongyang Grand Theatre
This auditorium, with its peach-coloured walls, purple-upholstered seats and bright-blue vinyl flooring, brings to mind the work of film director Wes Anderson – known for building fantastical worlds in pastel colour palettes.
Three Revolutions Exhibition Park Planetarium
This Saturn-shaped statue is located at the Three Revolutions Exhibition park, where the three revolutions of Kim Il-sung – the ideological, technical, and cultural – are explained.
Also very Wes Anderson-like, the breakfast room at the Koryo Hotel is decorated with sunset-like orange hues and bright blue table cloths. The hotel itself was designed for foreign visitors – and even has an out-of-bounds area which overlooks the residences of Pyongyang’s elite.
The Arch of Triumph
Modelled on Paris’ Arc de Triomphe (with the addition of 10 metres in height), the monument was built to honour President Kim Il-sung’s role in Korean independence.
Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex
Although not a landmark itself, the diving board inside the Changgwang complex certainly has a monumental impact, with its huge arching shapes in hues of pink and orange.