Calvin Chua, a London-based architect and member of Choson Exchange, recently wrote this compelling article on Pyongyang architecture for Fivefootway, a magazine focusing on design in Asian cities. Some excerpts:
Architecture and urban planning have always been used as tools to translate abstract political and economic ideas into physical forms. Across political systems, leaders often mark their political legacy through large-scale infrastructural projects and architectural icons. While some of these projects are no more than self-glorifying, many have a long lasting impact on the way residents live and interact and how the city grows and redevelops.
...Kim Jong-il, penned a treatise outlining an extensive architecture theory — “Juche Architecture” — based on the country’s primary ideology of self-reliance. In “On Architecture”, he spoke at length about the significance and role of architecture, the design principles and the architect’s qualification. More importantly, he called for the harmony of national virtues and modernity in the design. Ironically, at the time when the rest of the world was caught up with exploring forms in the early ‘90s, the young Kim declared that “the real beauty of architecture lies not in its external form but in its content.”