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A unique photographic journey through the socialist architecture and grand visions of North Korea's secretive capital

Overview

Many ‘model’ cities, both imagined and physical, have existed throughout history; from the ideal cities of the Renaissance, Urbino, Pienza and Ferrara, to modernist utopias, such as Brasília or Chandigarh. North Korea’s Pyongyang, however, is arguably unique. Entirely rebuilt following the Korean War (1950–53), the city was planned and fully implemented to model a single ideological vision – a guide for an entire state. As a result, the urban fabric of Pyongyang displays an extraordinary architectural cohesion and narrative, artfully captured in the pages of this book.

In recent years, many of Pyongyang’s buildings have been redeveloped to remove interior features or to render façades unrecognizable. From the city’s monumental axes to its symbolic sports halls and experimental housing concepts, this timely book offers comprehensive visual access to Pyongyang’s restricted buildings, which still preserve the DPRK’s original vision for a city designed ‘for the people’. Often kitsch, colourful and dramatic, Pyongyang’s architecture can be reminiscent of the aesthetic of a Wes Anderson film, where it is difficult to distinguish between reality and theatre. Reflecting a culture that has carefully crafted its own narrative, the backdrop of each photograph has been replaced with a colour gradient, evoking the idealized pastel skies of the country’s propaganda posters.

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Further Details

Specifications

Format: PLC

Size: 18.5 x 21.0 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 200

Publication date: 19 September 2019

ISBN: 9780500343531

About the Author

Architect Cristiano Bianchi first visited Pyongyang in 2015, when he started research on the ‘model city’ with the support of Koryo Studio. In 2016, he returned to Pyongyang with the support of the Korea Cities Federation (KCF).

Architect Kristina Drapic´first visited Pyongyang in 2015, when she started her research on the ‘model city’ with the support of Koryo Studio. In 2016, she returned to Pyongyang with the support of the Korea Cities Federation (KCF).

Pico Iyer has written for Time since 1986, and regularly writes for Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times. Books by Iyer include The Lady and the Monk and Video Night in Kathmandu.

List of Contributors

Koryo Studio, Oliver Wainwright