Inside North Korea

Guardian writer and architecture critic Oliver Wainwright’s new book offers a rare look inside hotels, stadiums and leisure centres in the totalitarian state

The phrase ‘socialist architecture’ tends to evoke images of utilitarian buildings – imposing high rises and squat concrete structures devoid of all colour. But this is not the case in North Korea.

Pyongyang’s skyline is dotted with tower blocks in bright shades of yellow, blue and green. The pastel-hued interiors of its leisure centres and theatres wouldn’t look out of place in a Wes Anderson film. Landmark buildings such as the Pyongyang Circus have a sci-fi feel – combining retro futuristic elements with features inspired by traditional Korean temples – while the Metro is decorated with lavish chandeliers and colourful murals. The city presents a fascinating mish-mash of styles and its idiosyncratic buildings serve to promote the ideals of the ruling Workers’ Party.



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