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The Ryugyong Hotel in August 2011
|Location||Pyongyang, North Korea|
|Roof||330.02 metres (1,082.7 ft)|
|Floor area||360,000 m2 (3,900,000 sq ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers|
|Main contractor||Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (1987–1992)|
Orascom Construction Industries (2008–present)
The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean: 류경호텔) (sometimes anglicised as Ryu-Gyong Hotel or Yu-Kyung Hotel) is a 105-story pyramid-shaped skyscraper under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea. Its name ("capital of willows") is also one of the historical names for Pyongyang. The building is also known as the 105 Building, a reference to its number of floors. Construction began in 1987 but was halted in 1992 as North Korea entered a period of economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union.
After 1992 the building stood topped out, but without any windows or interior fittings. In 2008 construction resumed. In 2012, the exterior was reported to be complete. The opening of the hotel was scheduled several times but postponed.
The Ryugyong Hotel has been the subject of derision and mockery by some of the press outside of North Korea, who have referred to the hotel as "The Worst Building in the History of Mankind" and the "Hotel of Doom."
The Ryugyong Hotel has a height of 330 metres (1,080 ft), making it the most prominent feature of Pyongyang's skyline and by far the tallest structure in North Korea. Construction of the Ryugyong was intended to be completed in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in June 1989; had this been achieved, it would have held the title of world's tallest hotel. The unfinished building was not surpassed in height by any new hotel until the 2009 completion of the spire atop the Rose Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Ryugyong Hotel is currently the world's 49th tallest building (alongside the China World Trade Center Tower III) in terms of total height and has the 5th highest number of floors.
The building consists of three wings, each measuring 100 metres (330 ft) long, 18 metres (59 ft) wide, and sloped at a 75‑degree angle, which converge at a common point to form a pinnacle. The building is topped by a truncated cone 40 metres (130 ft) wide, consisting of eight floors that are intended to rotate, topped by a further six static floors. The structure was originally intended to house five revolving restaurants, and either 3,000 or 7,665 guest rooms, according to different sources. According to Orascom's Khaled Bichara in 2009, the Ryugyong will not be just a hotel, but rather a mixed-use development, including "revolving restaurant" facilities along with a "mixture of hotel accommodation, apartments and business facilities".
The plan for a large hotel was reportedly a Cold War response to the completion of the world's tallest hotel, the Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore, in 1986 by the South Korean company SsangYong Group. North Korean leadership envisioned the project as a channel for Western investors to step into the marketplace. A firm, the Ryugyong Hotel Investment and Management Co., was established to attract a hoped-for $230 million in foreign investment. A representative for the North Korean government promised relaxed oversight, allowing "foreign investors [to] operate casinos, nightclubs or Japanese lounges". North Korean construction firm Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (also known as Baekdu Mountain Architects and Engineers) began construction on a pyramid-shaped hotel in 1987.
The hotel was scheduled to open in June 1989 for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but problems with building methods and materials delayed completion. Had it opened on schedule, it would have surpassed the Westin Stamford Hotel to become the world's tallest hotel, and been ranked the seventh-tallest building in the world.
In 1992, after the building had reached its full architectural height, work was halted due to a lack of funds amid electricity and food shortages in North Korea following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Japanese newspapers estimated the cost of construction was $750 million, consuming 2 percent of North Korea’s GDP. For over a decade, the unfinished building sat vacant and without windows, fixtures, or fittings, appearing as a massive concrete shell. A rusting construction crane at the top, which the BBC called "a reminder of the totalitarian state's thwarted ambition", became a permanent fixture. According to Marcus Noland, in the late 1990s, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea inspected the building and concluded that the structure was irreparable. Questions were raised regarding the quality of the building's concrete and the alignment of its elevator shafts, which some sources say are "crooked".
In a 2006 article, ABC News questioned whether North Korea had sufficient raw materials or energy for such a massive project. A North Korean government official told the Los Angeles Times in 2008 that construction was not completed "because [North Korea] ran out of money".
Though mocked-up images of the completed hotel had appeared on North Korean stamps during the initial construction period, the North Korean government ignored the building's existence during the construction hiatus even though it dominated the Pyongyang skyline. The government manipulated official photographs in order to remove the unfinished structure from the skyline, and excluded it from printed maps of Pyongyang.
In April 2008, after 16 years of inactivity, work on the building was restarted by the Egyptian company Orascom Group. Orascom, which has entered into a US$400 million deal with the North Korean government to build and run a 3G mobile phone network, denied that their telecommunications deal was directly related to the Ryugyong Hotel work. In 2008 North Korean officials stated that the hotel would be completed by 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the "Eternal President", Kim Il-sung. In 2009, Orascom's COO Khaled Bichara noted that they "had not had too many problems" resolving the reported structural issues of the building, and that a revolving restaurant will be located at the top of the building.
In July 2011, it was reported that the exterior work was complete. Features that Orascom has installed include exterior glass panels and telecommunications antennas. In September 2012 photographs taken by Koryo Tours were released, showing the interior for the very first time. There were very few fixtures or furnishings. In November 2012 international hotel operator Kempinski announced it would be running the hotel which was expected to partially open in mid-2013. However, these plans were put on hold with heightened tensions in 2013.
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